WorkReady session completed at County Jail
HOULTON - The RSU 29/70 Adult Education program at the Aroostook County jail has always provided a high school completion option, but the convergence of heightened concerns by County administrators, funding from a County of Aroostook Public Service grant and inmate interest has recently led to a course designed to enhance the re-entry skills of inmates.
Discussions with Chief Deputy Darrell Crandall, Jail Administrator Craig Clossey, Programs Officer Peter Duff and members of the RSU 29/70 Houlton Hodgdon Adult Education team led to a program called WorkReady. The WorkReady Credential, a 60-hour curriculum addressing many of the "soft skills" needed to be successful in the workplace, is designed to help individuals who are having trouble getting or keeping a job. It also helps potential employees understand the impact that their personal behavior has on the workplace and their employability.
"This is one of the most rewarding programs that we offer," said Adult Education Director Otis Smith. "These students voluntarily come to us ready to learn new life skills and take steps in their lives that will benefit them and their families when they re-enter the workforce."
The original, non-corrections WorkReady program has also been modified to address other barriers that may be a factor when individuals who have spent time in a corrections facility are looking for employment.
"Simply housing inmates with no effort to modify the behavior that landed them in jail is pointless," said Crandall. "This is just one of more than a dozen inmate programs we have put in place to give these folks tools that may help them become more independent and productive when they get out."
The first WorkReady class at the Aroostook County Jail began this spring and ended with the successful completion by two participants. Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) supported the program with grant funding to cover the costs.
"We were very pleased with the success of this first ever partnership with WorkReady and our County jail," said Ryan Pelletier, NMDC Director of Economic and Workforce Development. "I think these types of programs are critical to the success of reintegration of former inmates and we look forward to working with the County on similar types of employment and training programs in the future."
The WorkReady curriculum focuses on several key standards which include: identifying personal motivations and challenges to employment, developing a personal employment plan, appropriate workplace behavior, effective workplace communication, teamwork and problem-solving, conflict resolution, basic principles of getting and keeping a job, understanding wages, benefits, taxes and employee organizations, job searching, effective r umé and cover letter writing and interviewing skills.
Upon successful completion of the WorkReady program, participants will not only have a clear understanding of the standards, they will have made important community contacts, practiced interviewing skills, and created a professional portfolio that includes a cover letter, resume, reference list and a WorkReady credential recognized by many employers throughout the state.
"Positive change has to start somewhere and we are making opportunities available and at no cost to the taxpayer," added Crandall. "We really value this partnership with RSU 29 and NMDC."
Another session is planned for later this year.