Focusing on Employment: NIC's Career Center Project

Article excerpt

In today's work force climate, many people find that jobs are increasingly difficult to obtain and maintain. Add a criminal record, few job skills and an unstable work history to that equation and an individual's future employment opportunities shrink by the minute. Ex-offenders typically face barriers to sustained employment such as these, along with a substance abuse problem, limited education, lack of transportation and need for child care. To be successful in the work force, an ex-offender often requires assistance from work force practitioners who will guide him or her toward possible career paths and have the ability to recognize when referrals to social services are needed.

For ex-offenders, obtaining and retaining employment is important since it has the potential to ensure financial stability and reduce time that may otherwise be spent engaging in criminal activities. Further, research indicates the importance of employment for ex-offenders. In What Works: Reducing Re-offending, Guidelines from Research and Practice, M.W. Lipsy indicated that a meta-analysis of different programs aimed at reducing recidivism showed that employment programs had the best success at 35 percent. Also, a study conducted on sex offenders showed that the only factors found to reduce recidivism were a combination of employment and treatment. (1) In relation to specific criminal activity, Richard Freeman suggests in Crime: Twenty-Eight Leading Experts Look at the Most Pressing Problems of Our Time that the overall crime rate, and burglary in particular, are positively correlated to unemployment.

With the characteristics and statistics of the ex-offender population in mind, the National Institute of Corrections, through its Office of Correctional Job Training and Placement (OCJTP), is actively working to meet the needs of offenders and the community by providing training to practitioners and support for career centers.

OCJTP Training

OCJTP offers three comprehensive programs aimed at raising the skill and knowledge level of offender work force practitioners and administrators: offender work force development specialist training, offender employment specialist training and the Offender Job Retention Distance Learning Training Program.

Offender work force development specialist training is conducted twice a year, during which participants may subsequently gain certification as global career development facilitators through the Center for Credentialing and Education Inc. Becoming this type of facilitator enables participants to train line staff in their own jurisdictions on some or all of the program modules. Modules presented during training include career theory, assessment, transition and interventions, design and implementation, and other modules relating to offender work force development.

The Offender Job Retention Distance Learning Training Program was broadcast live in October 2002 to more than 1,000 corrections professionals throughout the United States and Canada. This program was designed for professionals seeking to address job retention issues for offenders and ex-offenders, and increase their employment success.

Finally, training for the offender employment specialist is a self-study program about offender job training and placement. Some practitioners view this course as a prerequisite to the other two programs. However, training for the offender employment specialist, a 36-hour course, can certainly be used by anyone working with offenders and ex-offenders in employment and job retention.

Career Center Project

As OCJTP continues moving toward a more holistic approach to ex-offender employment, the best methods and strategies for meaningful and sustainable employment are being explored. …