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Technical Training & Certifications in Prison Systems Could Close Skills Gap

For approximately nine million incarcerated offenders annually, it is the moment they have been counting down toward – they day they’re released back into society.four-in-nine prisoners in 2005 were arrested at least once in the year following their release. Even more - 83% - were arrested at least once during the nine years following their release.

Oftentimes, it can be met with a wide range of emotion: excitement of reuniting with family and friends; relief of reacquiring freedom; and anxiety of what their next steps may be.

Unfortunately, the good times rarely last. Nearly half of the prisoners released daily in the United States will be arrested again in the year following their release. Additionally, a staggering 83-percent will be jailed within nine years of their release, according to a 2018 US Department of Justice report.

While reasons for the re-arrests can vary, critics point to the difficulties previous offenders experience in trying to find a full-time job.

As returning citizens become re-acclimated to life outside jail, and are able to secure full-time positions, their potential incarceration chances drop. But when they struggle to find work, many will resort to old, dangerous habits to survive.

Studies show that finding gainful employment is the most effective deterrent to falling back into a life of crime. However some ex-convicts will leave the criminal justice system with no bank account, skills to land a job, or even full-time work experience, giving them little hope to succeed outside of the prison walls.

Technical Jobs Are Available Due to Skills Gap, But Limited Skillset Holding Back Former Prisoners 

With technical jobs aplenty, American leaders and employers are making a stand to push back against recidivism. Through US legislation and company partnerships, goals are being made to not only close the technical Skills Gap, but to do so using prison’s nontraditional talent pool.

The concern of hiring an employee with a criminal history can be prevalent for many companies, though.

Even if the candidate has been completely rehabilitated in the justice system, the thought of working alongside a former convict is enough to send some Human Resource Managers running in the opposite direction.

"The stigma of a criminal record is changing, as currently 1-in-3 adults in the US have a criminal record."

While it doesn’t completely eliminate the stigma, opinions of criminal records are changing, as currently 1-in-3 adults in the United States possess some form of criminal history. In fact, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, there are as many criminal convictions in America as there are college diplomas.

That’s why new legislation like the First Step Act is gaining such traction in today’s climate.

Signed into law on Dec. 21, 2018, the First Step Act ensures former offenders are prepared to come home from federal prisons job-ready, and have major incentives to pursue the life-changing skills that will help them succeed on the outside. While the First Step Act would only apply to federal prison systems, advocates are hoping it will inspire state legislature to follow suit.

With the ample free time available behind bars, prisons are pushing their population to utilize their time more efficiently and learn a trade, or skill. In turn, they hope that upon release, prisoners will find employment and not return to a correctional facility.

For now, the trends are positive – the end of 2015 saw the fewest number of people in a US Federal and state prisons since 2005. But with more prisoners desiring increased job-training classes, the need for authentic, hands-on technical skills training is growing by the day.

Technology Training May Hold the Key to End Recidivism

While prisons don’t necessarily tout themselves as learning institutions, many have begun initiating programs geared toward offering workplace training to their inmates.

Sure, some of these programs can lead to government funding if they help to fill the federal Skills Gap. But correctional facilities also realize that roughly 650,000 inmates are released from prison each year, with 95-percent of those incarcerated being released back into their communities at some point.95% of people in prison will eventually be released back into their community. That is more than 650,000 people annually.

However the fact remains that only about half of incarcerated adults have a high school degree, or its equivalent. So in order to help end recidivism, jails nationwide are becoming more proactive in offering technical training.

That’s where Amatrol’s state-of-the-art training devices can help.

Amatrol, which creates innovative, interactive learning solutions for industry learners, offers portable trainers that cover a variety of topics. Ranging from Hydraulic, to Pneumatic, to electrical systems, Amatrol’s portable systems are safe, secure and effective for use in any correctional facility.

Despite its compact size, the portable trainers still use industry-standard components, and offer the same level of authentic technical training as Amatrol’s full-size systems. They also provide effective results, and thanks to its durable case, can easily be transferred to other state and/or federal programs.

By teaching inmates real-world skills training, not only are prisons playing a role in the success and rehabilitation of its clients, but they also reward their future employers in receiving additional funding through government initiatives like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Get Certified: Amatrol’s Portables Supported by World-Class Curriculum

While learning for the sake of learning is nice, most inmates who take a basic AC/DC Electrical course, for example, would like something to show for it upon their release. They understand that when employers are struggling to find skilled workers, the stigma of a criminal record can be overshadowed by an applicant with certifications proving their knowledge and skillset.

With Amatrol’s training systems and interactive, multimedia curriculum, getting certified in a number of technical skills is now easier than ever. In essence, prisons can wheel in the trainer, open the box, have an instructor lead the class, then lock up the units when training is complete.

The training is almost exactly what one might find in classes on a college campus. The lessons are self-directed, and teach industry-relevant skills, with the only difference being its locally-installed multimedia curriculum, which means absolutely no internet is required to access courses.

Within the curriculum, each course consists of a pre- and post-quiz, in-depth lessons, and interactive skill-building using Virtual Trainers, all of which transfer skill-building knowledge to those with low skills to try to teach hands-on, applicable authentic competencies.

Once offenders successfully complete the course and appropriate quizzes, they can earn a certification that will help them get a foot in the door post-release, and secure a full-time job. More importantly, finding employment could potentially keep them from re-offending in the future.

Sample of Available Courses

Portable Pneumatic Learning System (990-PN1): Teaches basic and intermediate pneumatic concepts. Learners will gain critical hands-on experience operating pneumatic cylinders, flow controls, directional control valves, air motors, and pressure gauges.

Portable AC/DC Electrical Learning System (990-ACDC1): Teaches the fundamentals of AC and DC electrical systems used for power and control in industrial, commercial, agricultural, and residential applications. Offers industry-relevant skills including how to operate, install, design, and troubleshoot basic AC and DC electrical circuits for various applications.

Portable Hydraulics Learning System (990-BH1): Allows learners to study and practice how to read a pressure gauge, as well as liquid level and temperature in the reservoir, connecting hydraulic circuits, operating a bi-directional hydraulic motor, converting between absolute and gauge pressure, and connecting and adjusting the pressure setting of a pressure relief valve (PRV).

About Wes Scott

Wes Scott is a former public high school teacher and journalist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Wes on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.

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