C-Tech connects Windham students with high tech skills, increases offenders’ opportunities for freeworld jobs

Using interactive instruction, carefully monitored wire cutters, a hand-held testing device and a classroom partner's input, an offender in a Texas prison school cuts and creates his own wire/cable connection and plugs it into a telecommunications simulator. His teacher follows up with a tester, making sure the connection is successful and complete. The students get a green light on the assignment, moving forward in their efforts to obtain valuable job certification before leaving prison. They are earning internationally-recognized industry credentials and preparing for gainful opportunities in evolving telecommunications technologies and connectivity industries.

C-Tech TrainingThis scene is not uncommon as unique high tech workforce training programs expand Windham School District (WSD)'s list of job training classes and give state jail students better opportunities for employment and recidivism reduction. Partnering with C-Tech WSD has found another way to offer job training to state jail offenders, whose terms of incarceration are shorter, whose recidivism rates are higher and whose age is typically younger than that of other offenders. C-Tech is a full-service curriculum development company from New Jersey that designs training curriculum with input from information technology sector experts. It is used in corrections education in 29 states.

"C-Tech provides a structured learning environment resulting in a high level of job skills mastery," WSD Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter said.

WSD is offering studies in Telecommunications Technology, Network Cabling/Copper, Network Cabling/ Fiber Optics, Telephone Systems & Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), Audio/Video Entertainment and Energy Management.

C-Tech Training"C-Tech training is rich in job opportunities and of great interest to our students," Carpenter said. "We currently have a waiting list of about 400 offenders wanting to enroll in these classes. C-Tech certifications can be earned in six to eight weeks, and the classes don't require retro-fitting of current facilities. After release, former WSD students can go into a licensure program, and in two years, they could obtain a journeyman's license.

"In addition, C-Tech programs are highly –correlated to employment and good salaries. Many companies are willing to hire offenders and recognize C-Tech certification as a ticket to get a job with them. Students trained in C-Tech are highly-qualified and have an employment advantage. There are companies in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston that do installation of computer or audio visual components on big projects like civic centers, communications centers or even electronic signs for stadiums, roadways or businesses. These companies are interested in hiring our students, who can work on new construction as well as retrofitting. A lot of facilities want to set up audiovisual equipment using newer technology. Our students will be able to fill these jobs. Students with these skills can gain employment and good wages with electrical contractors, cable TV providers, video and sound technology installation contractors and energy management contractors."

WSD's C-Tech classes began in March and are currently offered at the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas, and the Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio. The district is planning to next add these programs to a female facility, according to Carpenter. As of early June, six instructors have been trained to teach C-Tech, and 55 students have completed certification. More trainings and classes are planned for the new school year.

C-Tech TrainingWhile working with freeworld training situations, C-Tech also has more than 15 years of experience in correctional education. The company provides short-term telecommunications training systems "behind the wire" to give former offenders a second chance at a new career.

"Early on, we recognized a need for trained technicians at an above entry-level wage," said David Brady, C-Tech vice president of National Business. "It is very important to deliver technology at a level that addresses the majority of students and still provides much-needed skills. Companies have been able to cut as much as three months off of a new employee's preparation cycle by hiring C-Tech certified technicians. Retention is high and a positive outcome is achieved, ultimately lowering recidivism rates."

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WSD in Images

Each day WSD correctional educators pass through prison gates across Texas to work with men and women incarcerated within TDCJ.
An offender at the Polunsky Unit prepares for graduation after earning his GED through the Windham School District.
Offenders often experience academic success for the first time in a Windham classroom.
Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.
Vocational and academic skills are integrated in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, such as this Small Engine Repair class in Huntsville, Texas.
Female offenders in Gatesville, Texas, study to improve their literacy skills during a WSD academic class.