A recruiting agency that started in Burlington opened a new office in Rutland last month with the aim of helping people recovering from drug addiction find jobs.
“In a nutshell, Working Fields is a mission-based recruiting agency that focuses on second-chance hires, primarily people recovering from drug addiction,” said Stuart “Mickey” Wiles, CEO and Founder of Working Fields.
Wiles said the agency works with organizations that are willing to employ what Working Fields calls its “associates.” Employers know the associates are recovering and may have criminal histories.
However, Wiles said, employers also know the associates have been vetted by Working Fields and are receiving agency support.
“A lot of employers are ready and even want to hire people in recovery and offer a second chance, but they don’t necessarily know how to go about it. They don’t know what they should be looking for, they don’t know how to assess whether someone is truly in recovery or not and once they’re hired, “How do we know they’re staying on track? ” said Wiles. “By using Working Fields, which we are able to do, by providing recovery coaches on a weekly basis, we are able to work with individuals and help them stay on track and achieve recovery success. “
Wiles started Working Fields two years ago in Burlington. He said they’ve had some success in Chittenden and Franklin counties and, to a lesser extent, Washington County.
Wiles is open about being in long-term recovery. He said he started the agency because he was ready to try something new.
The Rutland County office was open to the suggestion of administrators from Casella Management who had had success with the Williston Recycling Center and thought Working Fields could also be successful in Rutland, Wiles said.
About 45 people have been placed in northern Vermont. Rutland’s office on Merchants Row opened Oct. 1, but Wiles said there were already two associates placed on installing a solar project.
Wiles pointed out that Working Fields could not guarantee these associates would be successful, but said they had the opportunity to become loyal and successful members of a company’s staff.
Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella Waste Systems, said the company has a history of providing opportunities for people who “otherwise might struggle to find employment”.
“It’s very consistent with what we’re doing in terms of staffing some of our larger operations,” he said.
Fusco said Casella has a number of jobs that people leaving an addiction treatment program can learn quickly and pave the way to a more independent life.
Wiles said agency associates are referred by local organizations like treatment centers, recovery centers, the Center for Restorative Justice, and government sources like the Vermont Department of Corrections’ Probation and Parole Department. .
Wiles said employment can be one of the greatest assets for someone recovering from drug addiction.
“It really works on three levels. It helps to develop self-esteem, self-esteem. You contribute. It provides financial means, obviously to live on, but also, often, people coming out of addiction have a set of financial problems that they have to solve. The third thing is that early recovery is time out. Work fills the day,” he said.
Having a job also provides some structure, Wiles added. Some people have lost a sense of the structure of their lives because of their addiction, and others come from a place “where their whole life has been chaos and addiction.”
Recovery coaches make Working Fields different from other employment agencies. Wiles said they were often people recovering themselves.
“What a recovery coach does is first meet someone and try to help the individual understand where their greatest challenges and issues lie so that the coach can help them create a recovery plan which may include housing, transportation, health insurance, relationships, legal issues, etc.,” he said.
The coach can help the associate connect with resources that already exist in Vermont. The Recovery Coach meets with the Associate weekly to keep them on track and celebrate positive developments.
“Recovery coaches are cheerleaders, and they’re also there to hold people accountable,” Wiles said.