Efforts begun in December 1998, when the Southern Advisory committee of our Department decided to launch an agency-wide employment continuum for offenders. Since that time new employment programs were created and implemented in the Sixth Judicial District of Iowa. Briefly some of these programs are:
- Long-lasting Employment and Retention Network (LEARN): This program is designed with the goal of assisting offenders in obtaining permanent full-time employment that matches each individuals’ interest areas, aptitudes, career goals and criminogenic needs. It is likely the obtained job will be satisfying to the offender and therefore they will be productive and more likely to retain the job.
- Employment Counseling: This is a service provided for offenders with chronic employment problems characterized by losing jobs, job-hopping, long-term under-employment, and poor work performance. Individual attention is given to the offender including the use of numerous specialized assessment instruments as well as counseling in an effort to help them attain and maintain appropriate meaningful employment. This new service has been quite successful with the population it serves.
- Mentoring: This is an effort to match offenders with appropriate role models in the community.
- Community Service/Service Learning: Community service projects are selected for their content both in terms of what the project itself can offer the offender in service learning and what the offender and the community partners can derive in understand and appreciating on another as individuals. Also, the offender can gain a sense of connection to the community and pride in being a part of a restorative effort.
- Community Partners: The workforce development program strives to develop partnerships with other agencies and employers in an effort to promote employment.
Since the inception of the Workforce Development Program there have been many accomplishments. They are: implementing career development programs; approving two new job positions within the Department of Correctional Services; hiring a supervisor to directly oversee the workforce staff; installing and utilizing computerized assessments and skills training programs; completing specialized professional development staff training in Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS); creating an OWDS interdisciplinary statewide training team; participating in a partnership with the National Institute of Corrections and other community partners; implementing OWDS training in Iowa; conducting three OWDS statewide trainings in Iowa; presenting at state and national professional organization conferences; and publishing articles in professional journals.
During this past year, the workforce development program underwent some program development planning which will allow for more outreach to employers and community partners, and provision of more services to clients.
In fiscal year 2008, members of the Workforce Development Program began offering services through the Elvis Pressley Career Resource Center located at the Gerald R. Hinzman Center in Cedar Rapids. This center provides various levels of employment interventions ranging from career assessments to computer access to a 30 hour per week skills training program. Due to changes in workforce personnel, the activities in the center have not been fully implemented. This center is available to residential and field service clients through a referral process.
Upon referral, clients meet with a workforce development program staff and undergo screening to determine client employment needs. After the needs are identified, an employment plan is developed to address these needs. Approximately 480 client contacts were made at the Pressley Center. Additionally, Hope House requires residents to participate in employment services as part of their programming.
In fiscal year 2008, members of the Workforce Development Program contributed to the following activities and presentations:
- Attended luncheons and Business PMs offered by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and Iowa City Area Development Group.
- Attended ribbon cuttings for new area business openings
- Attended Iowa Workforce Development meetings
- Attended ECI Advisory Board meetings, Johnson and Linn County
Future Direction of Workforce Development:
- Implementation of an employment centered re-entry program
- Integration of employment services into staff philosophy on re-entry
- Revitalize neighborhood-based employment services
- Establish evaluation/tracking system for employment services
- Implement/revise new job classifications
- Expand Pressley Center
- Expand into all counties covered by the district
- Strengthen partnerships with community agencies and employers
- Statewide training for OWDS/OES
- Expand statewide OWDS network
- Develop oversight committee
- Present at state and nation professional conferences
- Contribute to professional literature and research