Entrepreneurship is a powerful tool. So powerful a tool is it, that it has been helping to lower recidivism rates for those exiting the correctional system. But when the government passes strict licensing laws on the workforce, many miss out on the opportunity to be self-reliant innovators.
For much of the incarcerated population, getting out of out prison and starting a career as a barber or as a cosmetologist sounds like a great plan. These are stills that many already possess, but these career fields come with so many certification requirements, it is almost impossible for those just reentering society.
In fact, this is such a widespread problem, the issue was even addressed on a recent season of the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. Since many former convicts are not formally educated, searching for gainful employment after being released is a difficult obstacle to overcome. But many are unable to find work at all. And for those unable to find a steady job, resorting back to the behavior that resulted in a prison sentence, to begin with, is a hard cycle to break. Yet, it isn’t a problem of not possessing the skills necessary to find jobs. Many have these skills, but finding an employer who doesn’t mind the criminal record is another feat entirely.
This is why it makes sense to go into business for one’s self. By doing this, former offenders do not have to face the embarrassment of having to mark a box on a job application that forever ties themselves to the mistakes of their past. But for those who already have a particular skill they would like to monetize, they are met with an entirely different set of obstacles from state licensing boards.
In one episode of Orange is the New Black, one inmate is faced with the bitter realities of planning for a future outside of prison. As her release day quickly approaches, the pressure to build a life on the outside without any formal education preys on her mind. Unable to master the GED test material, she is encouraged when she realizes she can make a living by doing what she does best–manicures.
Not only is this an area she is skilled in, it is also one that brings her immense pleasure. She is rejuvenated by this plan and begins to fantasize about opening her own salon and becoming a small business owner. However, that dream is soon dashed as another inmate informs her of all the licenses and permits she must obtain before she can open a business.
Occupational licensing laws have completely squashed the dreams of not only for former felons but also for all hopeful entrepreneurs. Individuals should be able to make their own way in life, regardless of state authority. However, it has now become a nation where government-issued licenses are required before someone can earn a living.
Entrepreneurship inspires while the government restrains. Those who want to work and create value should be allowed to do so without having to beg for the state’s permission.