Craft Training Redefines Life Behind Bars
By Chris Towery, Guest Contributor, From NCCER Blog
In recent years, a growing number of correctional facilities across the country have added NCCER craft training to their educational programming, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive across several fronts. Foremost, the training significantly reduces a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, otherwise known as recidivism, by providing offenders with valuable skills they can use to gain meaningful employment upon release. Additionally, NCCER training benefits correctional facilities through reduced costs and improved safety. Finally, the training is also proving quite valuable for the construction industry by creating a new pipeline of highly skilled and motivated craft professionals. As more and more correctional systems adopt NCCER training, these benefits will become even more widespread.
In terms of reducing recidivism, all educational programs have value, but correctional systems around the country are discovering that NCCER craft training is among the most effective of all. The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) started using NCCER craft training in 2009, and today, 13 of 20 CDOC facilities and one private prison offer it. Currently, CDOC offers NCCER training in Core Curriculum, Welding, Electronics System Technician, Heavy Equipment Operations, Masonry, Plumbing, Electrical and Alternative Energy. Each year, around 1,200 to 1,500 CDOC inmates complete an NCCER program.
Melissa Smith, CDOC’s educational coordinator, said that one of the primary reasons her department chose NCCER was because its credentials are nationally recognized by the construction industry and provide inmates with a major boost in credibility and recognition when applying for jobs upon release.
“The curriculum helps us teach the skills that industry actually needs,” said Smith. “Using NCCER, we know we are adequately preparing offenders to get a job and succeed.”
When it comes to reducing recidivism, ensuring that an inmate can find a job after being released is the primary goal of all programs. However, because many of the jobs they qualify for are extremely low paying, returning to a life of crime can become a tempting option. Since entry-level positions typically pay wellabove average wages to individuals with NCCER credentials, craft training graduates are in a much better position to succeed.
“One big reason that graduates of craft training programs don’t return to prison is that they not only get jobs, but they earn living wages,” said Smith. “Finding a job that pays a living wage is an absolute necessity, and NCCER credentials make that possible.”