April 17, 2018

The Skills Gap Is Real - Solutions - Attributes of Successful Reentry Programs

By Joan Andrews, RTWBC

Are we really looking at all available talent? The challenges that all employers are experiencing - the skills gap. Reentry programs a creating an option for employers and an opportunity for incarcerated workers to have a real opportunity to thrive when they are released and looking to begin anew.  

Reentry Programs: From Inmate to Skilled Employee

The skills gap is real...are employers looking at alternative resources and recruiting methods to fill those gaps? This post in our Skills Gap Is Real series puts a spotlight on Re-Entry programs.

As part of our Skills Gap Is Real blog series, we will be discussing not just the challenges all employers are experiencing when it comes to the skills gap, but also solutions some employers and policymakers have implemented to fill open jobs.

Nationwide, there has been much discussion about re-entry programs, so we decided to zero in on a success story from the state of Georgia to examine what lessons we might glean.  

Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia, took the issue of the skills gap head on when he took office in 2011. Central Georgia Technical College began developing a program whose mission is to “successfully reintegrate former offenders into communities, reduce prison recidivism, and positively impact Georgia’s economy by addressing the educational and employability training needs of Georgia’s incarcerated citizens.”

The College provides credit, non-credit, and industry-recognized certificates. A variety of credit course offerings such as Animal Healthcare Assistant, Auto Maintenance and Light Repair Technician, Diesel Truck Maintenance Technician, Design and Media Production Specialist, and many more, are offered in prisons throughout the state. Non-Credit courses are also available in Cosmetology, Barbering, CompTIA, and Literary Braille Transcription. 

The College’s economic development department identifies in-demand skills such as:

  • Soft Skills Training
  • Cyber Security
  • Forklift Certification
  • Manufacturing Support Technician
  • Call Center Training
  • Critical Thinking, Supply Chain Management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Carpentry

Inmates receive classroom and on-the-job training, GED’s, and recognized portable credentials. Some of the programs are college credit worthy and stackable; others are non-credit credentialed programs. 

Since the inception of the program, there has been an average of 550 students each semester and their completion rate is 65% – better than most community or four year colleges. 

The program has a core of employer partners and is eager to build on that base. When I spoke with Dr. Brittany Lucas, Executive Director for Re-Entry Services from Central Georgia Tech, she reiterated that the Work Opportunity Tax Credit is available to employers who hire individuals from certain targeted groups. One of those targeted groups is the reentry population. 

Women Re-entry

Though there appears to be more focus on re-entry programs for men, Hour Children in NYC is taking on the challenges of women re-entering the workforce after incarceration. This unique program boasts a recidivism rate of three percent while the national average for women returning to prison within five years is 68.1 percent. 

What’s so uniquely effective about Hour Children? Hour Children provides housing, mentoring, childcare, education and time to assimilate back into free lifestyle. Women who enter the program belong to a village and have the opportunity to be trained in Bookkeeping, Construction, Welding, Cosmetology and other in-demand skills. Most women begin with a work release or internship and ultimately 90% are hired. 

The program began ten years ago and has evolved along the way. They have multiple employer partners who view these re-skilled women as a talent pipeline option, thereby closing their skills gap. Con Edison is a proud partner with Hour Children, not only hiring from the program but also by providing volunteer mentors to women in the program. 

The program with Hour Children consistently has approximately 180 women who go through the program each year. Interested companies should contact Hour Children.  

A Georgetown study predicts a shortfall of 5 million skilled workers with post-secondary education for well-paying jobs by 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the United States will need 3 million more workers in the next ten years to fill low-skilled jobs so that the country will achieve economic growth. The impact of these gaps will fall squarely on the shoulders of the nation’s employers and ultimately the economy.

Does a re-entry program meet those needs?

Coalition-led up-skilling/re-skilling opens doors to solving the skills gap for employers, provides pathways out of poverty for job-seekers, and accelerates economic growth.
 

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Ready To Work Business Collaborative, founded by a collective of Fortune 500 companies, is committed to working cooperatively to develop hiring best practices that target the long-term unemployed, under-employed, people with disabilities, military veterans, and Opportunity Youth. The RTWBC accomplishes this mission through collaboration, thought-leadership, and services that support employers who desire to serve these talent pools better.

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Ready To Work Business Collaborative works cooperatively to help employers develop hiring best practices that target the long-term unemployed, underemployed, people with disabilities, military veterans, and Opportunity Youth.

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