Windham School District educators, students welcome Workforce Solutions to Wynne Unit
Working in partnership with the Gulf Coast Workforce Board - Workforce Solutions, Windham School District's workforce department brought Workforce Solutions to the Wynne Unit for a job fair where students could learn employment and workplace skills. With support from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), more than 60 Career and Technical Education students were in attendance, representing the welding, diesel mechanics and small engine repair classes.
A Workforce Solutions representative stresses the importance of developing job interview skills
"Offenders need to be made aware of all the radical changes taking place in employment and modern society. The world has not stopped its evolution while they are incarcerated," Principal C. Williams said. "The purpose of this event was to acquaint offenders with changes in the social and occupational landscape."
The job fair was a first for offenders at the Wynne Unit. Although some of the students had previous work experience, many had never held regular jobs outside of TDCJ. To help them overcome this obstacle in finding employment, Workforce Solutions regional facilitators showed students how to build their resume, apply for a job and develop job interview skills.
This event focused on improving offenders' occupational readiness. According to Workforce Solutions facilitator C. Kennard, offenders can be discouraged by the problems they have to deal with upon release and often need someone to remind them of their personal worth.
"First and foremost, offenders have to believe in themselves and strive to rebuild their self-esteem," Kennard said. "Keeping pace with the rapid changes of the new global economy is a huge responsibility, but it is a vital step toward success."
The event was also a crash course on how to navigate through the relationship dynamics of employers and job applicants. Workforce Solutions facilitators advised students on topics ranging from how to dress for a job interview to presenting oneself as a professional. Students were then quizzed on their knowledge concerning employer expectations.
Williams noted that "Facilitators and the WSD workforce specialists challenged the students to respond to pertinent job interview questions: 'Who are you? What are your skills? What are you looking for?'"
Offenders participated in impromptu role-play activities, which gave them an opportunity to practice interpersonal skills.
"I had no idea that going into a job interview could be so difficult or uncomfortable," one of the students said.
Students were then coached in ways to improve interview skills.
"Don't feel like you're the only one intimidated at the job interview, because you are not," Williams told participants. "Most of the time the person conducting the interview is unsettled as well."
She went on to say offenders should realize that there is value in all jobs, including TDCJ assignments.
"The trick is to take an ordinary job, such as those in the laundry, maintenance, manufacturing, food services, education or SSI-related areas and see the extraordinary vistas of value, translatable to real-world applications. Offenders need to stop using incarceration as an excuse to abandon their vision of success," she said. "Experience during incarceration translates into experience required for outside jobs."
"Giving offenders access to modern educational methods and current employment preparation serves to improve offender lives while enriching the learning experience," Williams explained. "The job fair was held to make offenders ready for tomorrow. Our goal is to help offenders build a foundation that will inevitably lead to employment skills employers are seeking, including vocational training and soft skills such as interviewing techniques, presentation skills, and even getting along with coworkers."
Certifications in TDCJ work areas such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC); welding, culinary arts, electrical work and others are attainable by offenders who are still incarcerated.