Story originally presented in the Philadelphia NorthEast Times
Northeast residents Dan Schmalen and Doug Kiker have started a job portal to connect recovered addicts with local jobs.
When Dan Schmalen and Doug Kiker re-entered the workforce and tried to find jobs, they struggled to find job boards that met their specific backgrounds. Sites like Indeed, CareerBuilder and Monster list many jobs with customizable search preferences, but none of them have options for job seekers who are recovered addicts or alcoholics.
Kiker, 13 years clean, and Schmalen, one year clean, are gainfully employed now. But that’s not enough. They want to help people who are in similar situations as them.
“Our No1 objective is to get people in successful recovery back to work,” Schmalen said.
They are creating RetroFit, a job portal catered specifically for recovered addicts looking to rejoin the workforce.
“This portal will provide that venue for businesses that are willing to proactively look at, consider and hire people in successful recovery,” Schmalen said.
Long-time friends, the two joined forces back in January after having “the same idea at the same time.” They became a nonprofit in March. Kiker, a Winchester Park resident, and Schmalen, a Torresdale resident, aim to launch the site with a Northeast Philadelphia-specific focus before expanding.
Schmalen already has experience helping those who have recovered get their lives back on track, last year helping a friend get herself back into school. Someone mentioned he should turn it into a business, and Kiker was more than willing.
“I know the need is there,” Kiker said, recounting firsthand experience.
They believe those who have recovered are the best workers because they are grateful for a second chance and motivated to get their lives back on track.
“You usually end up with a better employee, more motivated, less absences, better tenure,” Schmalen said.
They know finding motivation to stay clean can be instrumental, but difficult.
“We want to give them hope beyond just recovery,” Schmalen said. “Once you go through the rehab program, that’s it. There’s no direction after that.”
Nine percent of employed workers struggle with a substance use disorder, according to CNN Money in 2012. Longevity in a job is also a factor—NCADD reports that workers who have had three or more jobs in the past five years are twice as likely to be using an illegal drug, or have used one in the past year.
“[Holding a job] goes a long way in helping someone in recovery re- establish that self-esteem,” Kiker said. “We’re not giving them a handout, we want employers to help us give them a hand up.”
Once the site is fully launched, they hope to be able to provide users with that motivation. Kiker believes education is key.
“We want to set up an education program for the people who use our service,” Kiker said. “If you get a job through our service and stay in recovery or stay sober, after a certain amount of time we’re o]ering you steps to pursue education, like trade school or an English class.”
They are currently in the process of spreading the word and trying to establish connections with community businesses and places of higher learning. They are forming a board that will include IT and sales people, and will soon be launching a working model of their website,RetroFitCareers.org.
“It’s a win-win for them,” Kiker said, citing public relations value for potential community partners.
After they establish more community connections, they hope to be able to launch the website. They currently anticipate a September release.
“We know they’re out there,” Kiker said. “We know there is a whole host of people in recovery dying for a job. That market is there. Add the extra
benefits from being involved, and I think our program will be successful.” ••