Work as a platform for (re)integration

Posted by Inês Tavares on

2022 is being marked by major changes in the Job Market. A pandemic, the normalization of teleworking, a war and inflation have caused many people to change the way they view working life. There's talk of “quiet quitting”[1] and a “Great Resignation”[2], people openly talk about turning down jobs that don't offer a good work-life balance or a salary that meets their expectations and needs. On the other hand, we have chaos at airports due to lack of personnel and companies talk about the difficulty they feel in recruiting and retaining workers.

Since 2020, my work at RESHAPE has been linked to the employability of the people we accompany. It's not hard to understand the importance of work in a person's life – it's how we earn money that allows us to have a house, food and support our family, but it's also what we give 40 hours a week to. Therefore, work will always be a central theme at RESHAPE: unemployment and poverty are major risk factors when it comes to criminal recidivism.

The first job after incarceration is always the most difficult and the most important, due to the urgency of finding a way to obtain essential goods that can be reconciled with all the difficulties resulting from imprisonment: physical and/or mental health problems, debts, problems with documentation, looking for housing and rebuilding a social life. It is also this first job that will make it possible to find something better to follow and begin to believe in the possibility of getting out of precariousness, by increasing qualifications throughout this new journey in the job market.

Thus, Reshape Ceramics was born with a simple mission: to give people in the prison community an opportunity to learn and work. As we like to say: we don't hire people to make ceramics, we make ceramics to hire people. By providing training and a living wage to our artisans while they are still incarcerated and providing transitional employment after their release, as well as individual mentoring, we have tried to eliminate some of the biggest difficulties associated with this period.

With Reshape Ceramics we want to showcase the talent and potential that exists in our prison community and anyone who already owns one of our pieces can attest to that. And how do we do it? Betting and investing in each of our artisans, giving them all the conditions they need, training them to be better at what they do and listening to their feedback.

And when one of our artisans is ready to leave the project, giving his place to another who needs it more, we make sure that his next work has, at least, the same conditions as he had with us, and that alone is difficult. From non-contract “job” offers to unnecessarily demanding requirements for minimum-wage jobs with rotating days off and schedules, it seems that job openings that allow for a way out of precariousness are increasingly scarce.

There is no lack of people who want and need to work, there is a lack of decent and inclusive opportunities. Thus, we challenge companies to invest and bet on people. Work is a fundamental part of everyone's life and workers are essential for any company. So when we are talking about improving jobs, we cannot forget about the most vulnerable ones.

[1] “Quiet quitting”: When the worker keeps his job, but will only go as far as he needs, refusing the idea of going “beyond” his work. Source:–Conheca-a-nova-tendencia-para-trabalhar-menos-e3dc9df4

[2] “Great Resignation”: A term coined in May 2021, it describes the record number of people leaving their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. After a long period of working from home without commuting, many people have decided that work-life balance is more important to them. This labor market revolution appears to continue apace, with one in five workers worldwide planning to quit in 2022. Source: great-resignation-is-not-over/

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