People come home from prison every day full of hope for a new beginning. But with no one to lend a helping hand during the tricky transition to civil society, it’s easy for them to lose their way – especially, when faced with the practical needs for food, clothing and shelter and when confronted with the tough realities of a generally unforgiving society.
Without positive support, even the simplest responsibilities – like making it to a job interview on time – become opportunities for failure for former offenders. And as one failure sets the stage for another, it can be hard for even those with the best intentions to keep from returning to the world of crime and corrections.Enrollment is now open for our work-readiness course beginning January 24, 2020.
Work Readiness Training
To qualify for our Work Readiness Training, candidates must have been either released from prison or sentenced to community supervision on a felony conviction* not more than 12 months ago and:
- Residing in Hamilton County (TN)
- With a place to sleep and a way to the first class**
- No outstanding warrants or pending charges
- Willing and able to either work or attend college.
*Services are available regardless of the type or severity of felony conviction
**The first class is an orientation and is ordinarily held at the downtown branch of the Chattanooga Public Library. Transportation assistance is not provided to the orientation. However, assistance is provided to those who need it to complete the rest of the course.
Pathways is presented to participants in four phases — with a unifying theme that work readiness is about more than just landing a job.
From our perspective, employment is a trailing indicator of other things. For example, being considered seriously for an entry-level job indicates that certain basic conditions are already in place — like stable housing, reliable transportation, necessary documentation, and the ability to pass a drug screen. Keeping a job indicates that other conditions are in place — like building supportive relationships, consistently following instructions, getting along with coworkers, and maintaining a sober lifestyle. And, advancing in a job indicates that yet other conditions are in place — like valuing work over wages, creating a reputation of trust, building knowledge and skills, and helping to improve the community.
Getting, keeping, and advancing in a job doesn’t enable these conditions. Rather these conditions enable getting, keeping, and advancing in a job. That is why we say that employment is a trailing indicator of other things. It acts like a meter on how well other things are going in one’s life. That is also why we say that work-readiness is about more than just landing a job. It continues in front of every effective step toward a truly fulfilling work-life.
The four phases of our work-readiness program are organized in the same way with the purpose of assisting each participant as they pursue the personal goals that promote their professional aspirations.
Phase I – Core
All candidates participate in a 64-hour Core phase that includes a three-day group intervention to improve teaming skills (Community Building), a goal-setting sequence based on the work of Viktor Frankl and logotherapy, an introduction to a method for taking committed action in service of what matters most (ACT), and a workforce primer designed specifically for convicted felons based on our 32 years of experience in the field. Additionally, those who lack basic computer literacy are provided a beginner’s class on using the Internet for job search. And those who have a history of substance abuse are provided relapse prevention training to support their recovery (SMART Recovery).
We do not offer incentives. However, we do address barriers to participation. For example, everyone is provided lunch during the course. Everyone is also provided some form of transportation assistance — either gas money or a bus pass. And, as resources allow, those who need a mobile phone to support their job search and employment are given one.
Participants who complete this two week course earn a Work Readiness Certificate.
Phase II – Transitions
Focus: Job Acquisition
Upon completing the Core phase, participants continue to work on individual goals with case management and peer specialist support. They are introduced to a variety of career development opportunities in the area — such as the American Job Center and Tennessee Collect of Applied Technology at Chattanooga State. And they take part in both independent and directed job search activities until they are working or going to college full time. To keep them motivated and to sustain their hope during what is often an emotionally taxing time, participants in our Transitions phase are in frequent contact with Peer Specialists and attend groups that build on skills that they developed in the Core phase.
Phase III – Committed Action
Focus: Case Management
Employment is necessary but only part of the solution. Therefore, we don’t close a participant’s file with their first paycheck. Instead, we continue to assist them with their personal goals through case management and peer specialist support. There is no specific duration for this part of our program. We simply continue as long as it takes.
Phase IV – Stewardship
Focus: Peer Support
Participants receive preventative case management and peer specialist support for up to nine years — and may participate in any personal or career development opportunities that are offered.
Remunerative Work Training (coming soon)
Because it can take many months to achieve some case management goals — especially for those with high needs, participants who have completed the Core phase are eligible for remunerative training with participating employers. This allows participants to receive income while developing productive workplace habits. And because we have some control of their work schedules in this phase, we are able to conveniently continue to include them in training and support activities as needed.