Fortune 500 engineering company Leidos is using Northeast startup ecoverycareers to fill about 3,000 vacant jobs.
Leidos is a science and information technology company that works in a variety of industries, including aviation, biomedical research, defense, engineering and homeland security. It’s decided to post jobs on ecoverycareers as part of its commitment to support people with substance abuse disorders and mental health concerns.
Daniel Schmalen and his partner, Doug Kiker, founded ecoverycareers with one idea in mind: People in recovery need a resource to find jobs.
“There’s a whole class of people out there that are in recovery that are doing jobs that they’re way overqualified for because they have these problems with their background,” Kiker said.
Schmalen and Kiker met in a recovery program themselves. They noticed that there are few resources specifically for people in recovery to connect with employment opportunities. This inspired them to create such a service.
“It’s hard to go into a job interview and try to explain maybe a year’s loss, maybe a two years’ loss in time where they might have been struggling,” Kiker said.
Ecoverycareers works like LinkedIn or Indeed. A prospective job applicant can post their resume, and employers can find it. It’s free for applicants, and companies pay to post job listings.
Peter Harnetti, a corporate liaison for Leidos, first discovered ecoverycareers from an NPR piece.
According to Harnetti, Leidos was already working internally on support for people with substance abuse disorders and mental health issues following the overdose death of an employee.
“Over time Leidos really laid down both internally and externally a very favorable outreach and commitment to people, initially it was opioid use disorder, but more recently it’s expanded to include mental health issues as well,” Harnetti said.
According to Leidos’ website, the company has created Mission for the Mind, a mental health solutions campaign, and partnered with Milken Institute’s Center for Public Health to create the Leidos CEO Pledge Collaborative. It’s also provided funds and materials to Oxford House recovery homes.
For Leidos, the decision to use ecoverycareers is the next step of its initiative.
“There were some who were beginning to say Leidos should go further and walk the walk,” Harnetti said.
“By purposefully reaching out, you’re saying, ‘We are a company that’s interested in you.’ We have established and worked on stigma,” Harnetti said. “We’ve got jobs to be filled, it’s a larger pool of candidates, and we support individuals.”
Schmalen and Kiker said they hope to see more companies follow Leidos’ lead and extend a welcome to people in the recovery community.
“On the business side I would love every company from the mom and pop on the corner to Fortune 500 companies to companies of any size to use us as a recruitment tool,” Schmalen said.
Aside from breaks in employment history, the general stigma around addiction and substance abuse makes it hard for people in recovery. Employers may view the employee as a liability rather than an asset.
“We’ve been told over and over again, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea,’ but I think people, when they get back in their office and they think about it, it’s pretty scary. It’s pretty frightening for them,” Kiker said.
“So there’s another facet to Leidos using us. They can break down that stigma. It can take a chunk out of the stigma for a company like them to consider using us,” Kiker said.
Some jobs are within commuting distance of Philadelphia, others are more centralized around Maryland.
“These are career jobs, these are high-paying, education-specific jobs that they’re posting. This is really our first time to have someone like Leidos go after a specific recovery market,” Kiker said.
Schmalen said he believes that in some cases, people in recovery make better employees because they have already taken the steps to work on themselves, and they are more grateful to their employers for the opportunity.
And on a personal level, Schmalen said he is thankful that he can try helping others who are earlier in their recovery.
“Service is part of my recovery program, it helps me stay clean and sober but it helps somebody else, too,” he said. ••