Windham School District: Enhancing job opportunities through industry partnerships, updated career clusters, and apprenticeship training with TDCJ

Windham School District: Enhancing job opportunities through industry partnerships, updated career clusters, and apprenticeship training with TDCJ

Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes and collaborative partnerships are connecting Windham School District (WSD) students with enhanced opportunities to develop stronger employment skill sets.

Windham CTE classes are offered in more than 40 trades throughout the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), increasing vocational skill levels leading to employment after release.  Windham CTE programs follow career clusters, insuring that students are placed in programming that meets employability needs.

"Windham is excited to offer programs in the STEM career skills in the state jails and ID facilities," said CTE Department Administrator Rick Jones.  "These are middle skills jobs designed to meet increasing demands by today's job market.  WSD is also developing specialized programming to support non-traditional training for female residents, such as the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning class at the Crain Unit in Gatesville.  We are working to make sure we achieve and maintain the required labor market level of employability." 
Since School Year (SY) 2015, WSD has doubled the number of CTE participants served in vocational programs, resulting in nearly triple the number of industry-related certifications, Jones said.  In SY15, WSD awarded 11,183 industry certifications, while in SY17, WSD students earned 27,713 industry certificates.

"This increase in service has been accomplished by streamlining vocational program offerings and utilizing real world curriculum," he said. "Industry-related certifications are the hallmark of a viable vocational program.  They add validity to our training services and to the credentials of our students."

In a related effort, WSD's apprenticeship program is designed to assist residents in getting work experience in TDCJ, which will help them obtain a viable job in the real world.

"An additional component of the WSD job training offerings is apprenticeship," said Kevin Ainsworth, WSD department administrator of Apprenticeship and On the Job Training.

"Apprenticeship programming allows students to ultimately transfer training hours to principal occupations in the community," he said.  "The most effective training programs have very clear stepping stones.   We are working to identify these steps in our own WSD/TDCJ system and to implement their effective use. 
"We are creating learning opportunities for our Windham CTE-trained residents where the actual first job they get in their occupation of training is a work assignment with TDCJ during incarceration," Ainsworth said.  "In this first job, they will develop important skill and work experience, which contributes to their employability upon release in their same occupation.  After release, their new job becomes the second real job in their occupation or training.  This could be the beginning of a career, which is a strong employment situation for a former resident."

WSD continues to build collaborative partnerships to connect students with viable employment.  WSD has partnered with the Tarrant County Workforce Solutions Board and the Houston/Galveston Area Workforce Board to develop grants to assist residents in obtaining job training and employment after release.
Both grants will be provided for one year, and the Texas Workforce Commission will measure the progress of participants in related new programming. WSD will focus efforts on residents who have already received CTE industry certifications.

"The partnership between Workforce Solutions and WSD helps students with employment upon release and can help place them with companies willing to help with cost of an apprenticeship program and job placement," said CTE Administrator Jones.

"WSD and Workforce Solutions are striving to work with public and private industries to help increase employability skills for our students. We appreciate and value these workforce partnerships with public and private industry.  Together we are providing valued training and higher employment skill levels. This helps strengthen the Texas workforce while giving men and women job skills required to lead successful lives after release."