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Skills Centers Recognize 40 Years of Restoring Lives and Families

The first inmate training facility in the United States offering vocational-technical training by a state CareerTech system opened at Hodgen, Okla. in 1971.
Skills Centers Recognize 40 Years of Restoring Lives and Families

Jim Hamilton

Oklahoma CareerTech Skills Centers School System offers specialized, occupational training to adult and juvenile offenders throughout the state. On Feb. 15 the Skills Centers will mark its 40th year of preparing incarcerated individuals and offenders for success in the workplace and their communities.

To recognize this anniversary and honor former state Sen. Jim E. Hamilton, a ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Governor’s Blue Room at the State Capitol. The Oklahoma State Board of Career and Technology Education also will hold its board meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Jim E. Hamilton Correctional Center, Hodgen. The meeting will include a recognition ceremony, comments by Hamilton and brief tour of the facility.

Hamilton authored legislation to establish training for inmates through CareerTech in cooperation with the State Department of Corrections. In 1971 the first inmates arrived at a facility in Hodgen, Okla., operated as a sub-unit of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester. It was the first inmate training facility in the United States offering vocational-technical training by a state CareerTech system. In 1998 the Board of Corrections approved the renaming of the facility to the Jim E. Hamilton Correctional Center.

Skills Centers have evolved from a few occupational training programs to a system offering many program and services to adult and juvenile offenders, according to Dom Garrison, associate state director.

“Offenders with technical and academic skills are less likely to return to crime,” said Garrison. “In fact, 75 percent of Skills Centers program completers have not been re-incarcerated after five years.” Last year CareerTech Skills centers enrolled 1,427 in programs at juvenile facilities, community correction centers and state correctional facilities. “Eighty-six percent of those competing Skills Centers programs gained employment,” said Garrison. The average hourly wage of offenders completing Skills Centers programs is $10.25.

Offenders are trained in several industry clusters including Manufacturing, Transportation, Distribution and Logistics, Construction, Business Management and Administration. Skills Centers staff works closely with WorkForce Oklahoma, local agencies and faith- and community-based organizations to secure employment for graduates upon release to local communities.

Since 2000 CareerTech Skills Centers have served 13,203 individuals. This includes DOC juvenile offenders and those in private correctional facilities. In cooperation with the Department of Commerce, offenders also have received credentials in work readiness by earning Career Readiness Certificates. Today, 1,873 offenders have earned CRC credentials.

“Skills Centers focus on helping offenders transition back to their communities and into the workplace by teaching employability skills, such as resume creation, interviewing skills and job seeking skills,” said Garrison. Life skills, such as financial management, finding needed community resource and other support services also are taught in Skills Centers programs, Garrison said.

“The Skills Centers philosophy is simple,” Garrison said. “Successful transition from school to the workplace can mean a life of success for the ex-offender. Life and employability skills are just as important as the career-specific training offenders receive.”

For more information about the ceremonies or Skills Centers, please contact Paula Bowles, 405-743-5108 or pbowl@okcareertech.org.

Posted February 14, 2011

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