Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Creating pathways to a better future

By Ann Briggs

Wouldn't it be great if we could all have a "do-over" after making a big mistake and drastically change the path we're on? For some incarcerated individuals who are motivated and close to re-entering their communities, that do-over is coming in the form of education and job skills training while they serve their time.

So what does that have to do with transportation? Our agency supports and encourages inclusion and workforce development, providing equal opportunity and access for anyone who wants to do business with us. Working with an interagency partnership program called, Sustainability in Prison Project (SPP), we're helping currently and formerly incarcerated people see that there are opportunities for them to have a successful career in the transportation sector after they are released using the new skills they're developing now.
Our staff helps incarcerated people prepare to re-enter the work force, not only with technical training but also
assistance with interviewing and resume-building skills. Photo credit: Sustainability in Prisons Program

Studies show that people who are released from prison and are able to find living-wage jobs are less likely to re-offend and end up back in prison. For those who are willing to learn, the training and experience they receive while doing time can help them become contributing members of their communities.

SPP is a partnership founded by The Evergreen State College and the Department of Corrections that delivers a wide range of science, sustainability and environmental education programs in Washington's prison system. We are one of the many partner agencies that are participating in the program, with an initial focus on wetlands and stormwater management.
People taking part in the Sustainability in Prison Project learn how the education they're gaining can help
them find employment in our agency. Photo credit: Sustainability in Prisons Program

As a second chance employer, we're working with the SPP to identify qualifications and training needed for individuals to successfully compete for entry-level employment in our environmental and maintenance programs. Those skills might include certification or technical training in areas such as pesticide application, commercial driver's license, welding, flagging, wetland ecology, stormwater management and roadside restoration.
Inmates receive training in a variety of science and environmental skills that can help them
find work in our agency and others. Photo credit: Sustainability in Prisons Program

This past year we participated in several workshops at the prisons, reaching out to 30 to 50 incarcerated individuals at a time. These workshops gave us a chance to talk with them about how their education and training can be applied to work in our agency. In addition, our Human Resource staff shared tips to help them navigate the state application process, create a cover letter and resume that showcase their new skills, and practice answering questions through mock interviews.

For us, SPP is creating a new pool of skilled, diverse talent to draw from as we face a wave of retirements in the next few years and a shortage of workers in hard-to-fill positions. For formerly incarcerated individuals, it's a way to help them break through a barrier to employment and make a positive change for their future. It's a win-win all the way around.