WSD expands vocational programming, course lengths, training opportunities

WSD is proud to share its plan for program expansion through an ongoing series of changes and improvement in the Vocational Trades and Career and Technical Education certifications. New course lengths, course offerings and training opportunities are becoming available to men and women in TDCJ.

In the past, courses in vocational trades matched the course requirements for Windham, rather than just the hours needed for certification. While completing the total hours in a course will provide additional skill practice, many students finished the skills much faster than the course was completed.

WSD expands vocational programming, course lengths, training opportunities

"We are working with the craftsmen in our schools to determine the adequate number of course hours for skill completion, and we will be reducing the number of hours for most of our courses," WSD Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter said. "Students will still get the appropriate number of hours that industry requires for certification, along with enough practice time to become comfortable with the skills in the classroom. The course can then be completed with fewer contact hours in most cases. Those individuals with a short-term projected released date may be able to now complete a course, which was not possible before this change."

Additionally, WSD will be separating the basic "core" skills for most NCCER certification classes. These "core" classes carry a certification which employers want for entry level workers. After completion of the "core", the student may choose a specific NCCER trade such as welding, plumbing, electrical technician, pipe fitting, or construction carpentry as a continuation of the trades up through NCCER Level I. These classes will also be shorter in duration than in the past.

WSD is also adding more OSHA instructors so students may enroll in the short OSHA training required by so many employers prior to being hired in the industrial trades.

"The OSHA classes will be open to most offenders and not limited to just those with the typical Windham priority criteria," Carpenter said. "Now almost anyone can work to improve their skills to get a high-paying job."

Windham is also adding a significant number of valuable additional training opportunities in the technical fields. Copper and fiber optic cabling, audio visual installation, energy management system programming and telecommunications are several industry-recognized certifications that will be added to many of the state jail units.

"With these courses, students will be able to land high-paying jobs in the STEM career industries," Carpenter said. "Additionally, classes to support these career clusters, such as Electronics Service Technician, will be added to course offerings. Students who have time to complete additional certifications can now add technology installation to their skill set.

Windham has also started adding course support materials for those who may not be enrolled in WSD. Pilot programs for self-study vocational certifications are planned to begin early 2016.

"This will be accomplished with the addition of industry trade code books to the libraries for individuals with State License in a trade," Carpenter explained. "Prior to their release, these individuals will be able to catch up on changes to the codes."

In still another pilot program, Windham is working closely with TDCJ to offer self-paced training programs leading to industry-recognized certifications. In these classes, students will be able to check out study guides and materials for selected certifications, and when they are ready, put in an I-60 requesting testing. At that time, they will be scheduled for a certification test by Windham.

"We want students to be successful in reentry and are working closely with TDCJ to provide opportunities for them to become job-ready, improve their academic abilities and develop plans to change their lives on release," Carpenter said.