Oklahoma CareerTech delivers help and hope to people incarcerated in Oklahoma’s prisons.
Through its Skills Centers School System, CareerTech offers specialized occupational training to adult and juvenile offenders under the supervision of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs.
Offenders learn skills in several areas, including transportation, distribution and logistics; construction; machining; auto service; heating and air conditioning; and business and information technology. These skills — and others — allow released offenders to transition successfully from the correctional system to the workplace, to support themselves and their families and to become taxpayers who are helping to support the Oklahoma economy.
In fiscal year 2017, the Skills Centers School System served 992 full-time students and 683 short-term students. During that year, 88.52 percent completers received jobs or continued their education.
Skills Centers instructors teach offenders the skills they need to get and keep jobs and live successfully in a community. The classes and instructors prepare the offenders to be productive, positive and professional citizens, according to one instructor at a juvenile facility.
Kent Roof, a CareerTech Skills Centers regional director, explains it as “a holistic approach to making our students successful.” And it is.
Oklahoma CareerTech Skills Centers instructors want the students to learn job skills and life skills, to be successful and not return to incarceration in the future. That’s where the strength of the Skills Centers lies: helping offenders develop the skills they need and helping them supply proof to potential employers of their skills and the changes they’ve made.
The Skills Centers help offenders prove their abilities through technical certifications and the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, which shows abilities in solving problems, thinking critically, reading, applying information, using mathematics and other skills.
One former Eddie Warrior Correctional Center inmate explained that finding a job is hard because “employers want proof that you’ve changed, and when you’re first coming out of prison there’s no way to offer that.”
She earned a transportation, distribution and logistics certification while in the center and now works for the Cherokee Nation, counseling women who have backgrounds similar to hers. She’s also taking college classes to further her education.
Another former Eddie Warrior inmate went to work for a gas and electric company, earning $69 an hour. Her Skills Center education also helped her learn budgeting skills that helped her buy her first house without needing a loan.
That’s Oklahoma CareerTech’s mission: to prepare Oklahomans to succeed in the workplace, in education and in life. The Skills Centers School System delivers that mission to those who need a second chance and helps them achieve it.