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Meeting the needs of returning offenders through employment.

There is compelling evidence that unemployment contributes to an increased rate of parole revocation, which is a major risk factor for recidivism. Individuals released from correctional facilities often find that their search for employment is hindered by barriers such as lack of educational credentials, limited work history, poor planning skills, employers' prejudice toward hiring ex-offenders and current laws in some states. Given the complexity of the challenges facing offenders seeking work, those who assist them must possess a comprehensive set of work force development skills. Furthermore, these professional skills must be used in the context of a partnership involving criminal justice agencies and community-based organizations. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for a single agency to meet all the needs of offenders returning to the community.

The Training Program

Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) Partnership Training is one of NIC's most comprehensive training programs. Through this training, carefully selected multidisciplinary teams acquire a set of professional competencies that systematically address challenges faced by offenders in their search for employment. OWDS Partnership Training requires a considerable amount of time and effort, both in the classroom during instruction and outside the classroom in practicum activities. In addition, each team must commit to replicating the training in its jurisdiction.

The OWDS Partnership Training Program provides participants with the skills needed to assist offenders with career planning, job placement, job retention and career advancement. The program also works to establish partnerships where none existed before, helping to create a seamless continuum of work force development services from pretrial status through the correctional system and back to the community. The training program satisfies the training requirements for certification as a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and an OWDS instructor. The OWDS training requires a commitment of approximately five weeks during a period of about six months.

Classroom instruction consists of three sessions lasting four and a half days each. The e-learning modules and practicum assignments require an additional 72 hours. The classroom training sessions are scheduled approximately five weeks apart to minimize the disruption to participants' critical job responsibilities. During the intervals between classroom sessions, participants are required to complete e-learning modules along with practicum and reading assignments. In addition, when the team successfully completes the training, participants receive three days of OWDS Instructor Training on site within their jurisdiction from an OWDS master trainer. A prospective trainee and his or her supervisor should discuss how best to balance workload requirements with the OWDS training requirements.

Essential Competencies

The OWDS Partnership Training Program addresses the following essential competencies:

Career development theory and application. Participants will become familiar with four career development theories that can be used to assist offenders with their transition to the community, career planning, job search, job placement, job retention and career advancement.

Understanding and using facilitation skills. Participants will learn and practice a set of communication skills that can be used to effectively assist offenders/defendants with career planning, job search, job placement, job retention and career advancement.

The role of assessment in career planning and job placement. Participants will learn to use a variety of assessment tools and techniques that can assist offenders/defendants with making informed career plans and job choices.

Instruction and group facilitation. Participants will learn skills needed to provide effective group instruction.

Designing and implementing training and work development services. Participants will learn the basic principles of program planning and implementation, including design, evaluation, promotion and public relations.

Barriers to employment. Participants will learn how to identify the barriers to employment that offenders/defendants face and how to assist them with removing or minimizing these obstacles.

Ethics and the career development facilitator. Participants will learn the GCDF Code of Ethics, a set of professional standards that define acceptable conduct, appropriate role boundaries and the participants' scope of practice.

Transition interventions for the offender population. Participants will learn the types of interventions that can be used with offenders/defendants as they make the transition to employment, including the development of goals and realistic action plans.

Job-seeking and employability skills. Participants will learn how to access labor market information and how to use this knowledge to prepare offenders/defendants for the world of work.

Job retention. Participants will learn strategies and interventions that can improve job retention for offenders/defendants and how to teach these skills.

The role of information and computers in career planning. Participants will learn the primary sources of information about career planning and education available and how to use this information in their work with offenders/defendants.

Getting Started

NIC provides OWDS Partnership Training through collaboration with the National Career Development Association (NCDA), which has endorsed the OWDS Partnership Training Program. Participants who complete the program meet all training requirements for GCDF certification from the Center for Credentialing and Education Inc. (CCE) ( To qualify for OWDS Instructor training, participants must receive certification.

The OWDS Partnership Training Program is a series of three one-week training blocks. Participants are expected to attend all three blocks within the series. In 2008, the series will be held during the weeks of Aug. 3-8, Sept. 21-26 and Nov. 2-7. Applications are due by April 1 and may be obtained from NCDA by calling 1-866-367-6232 or (918) 663-7060 or online at

NIC's Administrative Guide: Offender Workforce Development Specialist Partnership Training Program contains the eligibility requirements and detailed information on the training process for NIC's partnership program. Download the guide at or at

NIC's Offender Workforce Development Division was created to coordinate the efforts of federal, state, local and nonprofit agencies to improve employment programs for offenders and ex-offenders. Visit the NIC Web site at for additional resources.

Francina C. Carter is a correctional program specialist for NIC in Washington, D.C
COPYRIGHT 2007 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:NIC Update
Author:Carter, Francina C.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Previous Article:Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
Next Article:The violation population.

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