Thursday, September 20, 2001

Altres personnel executives Dianne Boasso, facing left, and Kerry Kopp
talked to inmates and former inmates looking for jobs yesterday at the
state Department of Public Safety's fourth annual
job fair at McCoy Pavilion.

Inmates prepare
to enter tight
job market

Those ready to join the
work force face increased
competition for fewer

By Lisa Asato

Raylene Quinonez knows it will be tough to find a job when she is released from prison in two weeks.

Not only will she have to explain why she spent four years at the Women's Community Correctional Center, but she is also entering the job market at a time when Hawaii's leaders in government and business are meeting to devise a plan to head off a recession in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks.

"I'm just going to do what I have to do to get a job," said Quinonez, a 31-year-old mother of two. "Just because there's a crunch (on the economy) and just because I have a record, I can't say, 'I quit.' I've come too far. I've just got to keep pounding the pavement."

Quinonez was one of 71 inmates and former inmates who attended the Department of Public Safety's fourth annual job fair yesterday. The men and women came to learn about obstacles they face, the types of jobs available, qualifications for those jobs and the realities of Hawaii's job market.

The market realities, however, are "pretty grim," said Norma McDonald, Oahu branch manager for the state Labor Department's Workforce Development Division.

"It's definitely going to be more difficult (for them to find a job) because the pool of job seekers is going to be that much larger because people are getting laid off," said McDonald, whose division partners with Oahu WorkLinks, a free public employment and training service that held a job-searching workshop at yesterday's fair.

"In the last year we were beginning to see the economy sort of pick up," McDonald said. "This is really a blow to the stomach, so to speak, for those entering the labor market with little work experience, with some of the barriers that society has set up for them."

Hawaiian Electric Co. taught attendees yesterday how to dress for interviews and walked them through mock interviews.

"Their willingness is tremendous," said Danny Ishii, HECO consultant for work force staffing and development. He said some of the ex-offenders meet the requirements for entry-level mail clerks but that "the job outlook is cautious right now."

HECO, which employs 1,300 people statewide, is not considering cutbacks, he said, but is "re-examining our staffing ... and not actively recruiting at this time."

"As a large employer we have a larger pool of candidates," he said. The inmates could be "one in 100 applying for a job" and have to distinguish themselves through their skills and knowledge.

Ray Makkonen, education supervisor at Oahu Community Correctional Center, said he is telling the inmates what he always tells them: to use their education during incarceration as a positive.

"We still tell them to expand on their experiences and the education they attained," he said. Inmates can receive training in computer technology and repair, food preparation and sewing, he said.

"We did have a girl who got hired today," he said, adding that eight others were asked to fill out applications at Waikiki Trader Corp.

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