Vice Creates Apprenticeship Program for Former Inmates

VICE Special Report: Fixing The System

The media company will employ five people who formerly were incarcerated for a six-month apprentice program.

Vice Media has launched a new apprenticeship program designed to provide employment for people who formerly were incarcerated.

The program, created in partnership with the Center for Employment Opportunities, will begin in 2017 and will run for six months. The Brooklyn-based youth media brand will look for candidates to work across its digital channels, newsroom, television and film operations, and other divisions. It will pay $15 an hour for 40 hours a week. 

Vice CEO Shane Smith said in a statement that the program was inspired by his work with President Obama on prison reform documentary Fixing the System. "I was struck by the high recidivism rate, and by the fact that once you enter into the system, it is indeed very hard to get yourself out," he said. "I am very proud of be a part of this program to try and alleviate some of these issues by putting our money where our mouth is. It is admittedly a small step, but hopefully other media companies will follow suit and not only push for change, but also nurture a whole new group of producers, shooters, cutters and hosts that will offer a new perspective, not only on prison reform, but life itself." 

The Vice Apprenticeship Program is open to anyone on parole or between the ages of 18 and 25 who is on probation. Vice told the AP that it initially will hire five people but could expand the program if it is successful. 

Former inmates often have a hard finding work once they are released from prison, with employment rates currently around 30 percent. Sam Schaeffer, CEO of the Center for Employment Opportunities, called the Vice program "a game-changing model of corporate citizenship." 

He added: "Vice recognizes that 70 million Americans who have a criminal record can't be left on the employment sidelines. I'm excited to chart a new trajectory for CEO participants who are seeking to springboard into careers in creative media." 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the program. "Rehabilitation not only benefits those returning to our communities, but all taxpayers," he said. "I applaud Vice Media and the Center for Employment Opportunities for their leadership, and look forward to seeing this apprenticeship program help more New Yorkers succeed."