Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Grant aims to give inmates skills to help them gain employment

SPRING HILL — Inmates at the Hernando County Detention Center will get an opportunity to learn some technical business skills aimed at making them employable upon release, thanks to a $500,000 grant awarded jointly to CareerSource Pasco Hernando and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

The Project Re-Start grant is one of 10 across the country, designated by the federal departments of Justice and Labor. Dave Hamilton of CareerSource and Maj. Michael Page of the Sheriff's Office, who collaborated on the application, say they are in planning stages to identify inmate candidates to take part and to design classes, which will be held at the jail.

"We're looking at serving 100 individuals," Hamilton said.

The inmate population averages more than 600 men and women at any one time, mostly incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses, Page noted.

Selected inmates will take a 20-hour course in work maturity skills training, instructor-led and computer-based. The curriculum will include Microsoft Suite, paramount to job searching; QuickBooks, basic data entry and bookkeeping; and certified production technology, which includes safety, quality-control and measurement techniques.

Said Hamilton, operations manager at CareerSource: "Somebody who comes out with QuickBooks certification is certainly employable."

With certification, he said, "Somebody could enter into a manufacturing atmosphere, and things being thrown at them will not be Greek. They could start at entry level with any one of our manufacturers at the Airport (Industrial Park)."

How-to-find-a-job training will include resume writing and how to, with a blot on their record, approach an employer.

"Also, part of our team will work with employers, educating them about misdemeanors," Hamilton said. "A record makes employability problematic. We're trying to remove this barrier of employment. We're not excusing what (inmates) have done, but we'll try to come up with a program so they are as employable as possible."

Page said job skills and employability are only part of the regimen necessary to reduce the probability of rearrest. Many inmates need a safety net of ancillary services as well.

He mentioned mental health services, addiction counseling and job continuum counseling.

"We can use the grant to establish some of those follow-up services," Page said.

Parameters written into the grant application include funding a Sheriff's Office staff position to provide re-entry services.

Although the grant is not the largest awarded to CareerSource in recent years, Hamilton said, "This is one of the most exciting ones we've had, partnering with a very interested party to reduce recidivism and get these people employed."

Classes could begin as early as a month from now, Hamilton said. The grant provides for two years of services.

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

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