As the president and CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Center of America, Inc. (OIC) James Haynes is focused on re-energizing the historic workforce development organization.
Founded in 1964 by the Rev. Leon Sullivan, OIC was created to address the lack of education and job training programs available to minorities in Philadelphia so they may prepare themselves and become part of a highly skilled workforce. Today, the national organization has 34 affiliates in 22 states.
Haynes, a retired Johnson & Johnson executive and United States Army veteran, has been leading the nonprofit entity since October 2016. He has been affiliated with the organization for more than 20 years, having previously served as a member at-large and first vice chair of the board.
“The reason why I’ve been a part of this organization for so long is because I believe in what Leon Sullivan was doing,” Haynes said during an interview at OIC’s Philadelphia-based headquarters.
After taking the helm of OIC, Haynes focused on addressing the nonprofit’s financial challenges. At the time, the nonprofit faced difficulties as its federal grant funding dried up and it was forced to reduce its staff.
“This organization was pretty much close to closing its doors — not at the affiliate level, but at the national office level,” Haynes explained.
Now OIC is in the midst of experiencing a renewal.
“It’s almost like we are starting again — starting anew,” Haynes said.
Haynes seeks to strengthen the link between the national organization and its network of affiliates. He often does site visits so that he can interact with affiliate representatives.
“There is a belief that a strength in numbers is of value to us as an organization,” Haynes explained.
“We’re just trying to put a face to the national office people understand and can appreciate, that has a little different thinking on how it can be run.” he said. “While we ride on the heels of the legacy of the organization, we also believe that the population base is different and we have to change. Change is inevitable.”
Through its network of affiliates, OIC offers more than 150 programs in the areas of vocational training, work readiness, education, health care, youth development and re-entry.
The nonprofit seeks to address the problem of recidivism through its national re-entry program named SOAR (Skills and Opportunities for Achievement and Responsibility). The program helps formerly incarcerated young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 successfully transition back into their communities.
“I want us to be considered as the foremost thought leader for re-entry work in terms of being able to return people back into the environment and making them more productive,” Haynes said.
“They satisfied their debts in terms of incarceration but what we also find is that there are probably 630,000 people that return back to an area where the cards are stacked against them.”
OIC received $9 million in federal grants for its affiliates to offer the program in Philadelphia; Harrisburg; Clark County, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minn.; Newark, N.J.; and Miami.
Program participants are enrolled during a period ranging from six to 12 months depending on their educational background. They receive case management, education and training that leads to industry-recognized credentials, workforce activities that lead to employment and nine months of follow-up activities.
“These are people who have paid their dues and if we want to fix the crime we have to allow them to reintegrate back into society at a livable (wage),” said Letitia Crippin, OIC program coordinator. “It is critical what we are doing.”
OIC will celebrate Re-entry Month and the one-year anniversary of SOAR by hosting a re-entry job and resource fair on Friday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Leon H. Sullivan Human Services Center, 1415 N. Broad St. The resource fair will bring more than 22 employers and service organizations together in support of the re-entry community.
The event kicks with a press conference featuring various speakers including the Rev. Wilson Goode, former mayor and president of Amachi, Inc.; Buddy Hall Sr., SOAR program manager; Charles Crumbley III, interim president & CEO, Philadelphia OIC; Mable Welborn, Sullivan Charitable Trust chair; City Council President Darrell Clarke; State Rep. Curtis Thomas; and Gerald Alston, Grammy Award-winning musician & OIC’s pioneer celebrity ambassador.
Ayana Jones Tribune Staff Writer