With guidance from the network, participant organizations will be steps ahead in offering programming that is relevant to the needs of today’s workforce and labor market.
BOSTON (April 20, 2023)—Career and technical education (CTE) opportunities for people who are incarcerated will soon increase thanks in part to a new program led by Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation of the American workforce and education systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all.
With support from ECMC Foundation, JFF’s Center for Justice & Economic Advancement has launched the Postsecondary Education in Prison CTE Accelerator Network. As part of this two-year project, 16 postsecondary institutions and supporting organizations will refine and expand their current CTE programs and launch new ones. A wide-ranging group of subject matter experts—including people who have led postsecondary programs at correctional facilities and other successful CTE programs and people whose expertise is informed by pursuing CTE pathways in prison and beyond—will serve as network advisors and facilitators.
“CTE programs are an important part of the postsecondary education in prison ecosystem, but many existing programs are outdated and lack learner options,” said Rebecca Villarreal, a JFF senior director who will lead the project. “The network is an opportunity for programs to consider the pathways they offer to sustainable careers for people who are currently incarcerated. That may mean developing new programs, expanding existing programs, or, in some cases, sunsetting programs.
“With the federal reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for learners who are incarcerated happening in July, it is essential that facilities provide a variety of education and training opportunities that set up individuals for success when they reenter their communities. With guidance from the network, participant organizations will be steps ahead in offering programming that is relevant to the needs of today’s workforce and labor market.”
The network is being established at a time when millions of jobs across multiple industries are left unfilled. Postsecondary CTE programs in prison will further prepare learners who are incarcerated for the demands of the changing labor market and set them on a pathway to economic advancement.
“There is a large population of individuals who are incarcerated who want employment and very deeply desire positive roles in their community after release,” said Brandon Gay, site coordinator for Colby Community College’s prison education program at Norton Correctional Facility in Kansas and a subject matter expert for the project. “However, they need the training and tools to meet those goals. When we offer those resources, we help the economy, we make our communities safer, and we change the lives of people who desperately want opportunities for change.”
Gene Loflin, associate vice president of instructional services at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), is a contributing member of North Carolina’s myFutureNC initiative, which aims to ensure 2 million North Carolinians earn a postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. "It's a lofty goal that requires access to higher education for all residents, including those who are incarcerated,” Loflin said. “A-B Tech became the first Second Chance Pell institution in North Carolina and has dedicated itself to expanding access to education and training to all learners in all correctional facilities throughout the state. Our participation in the network will only help to open doors for students who are incarcerated while also fulfilling the college’s mission and achieving the 2030 goal.”
In the United States, nearly 2 million people are housed in prisons, with over 600,000 people released from prison every year. Through the Center for Justice & Economic Advancement, JFF is raising awareness of the economic needs of people with records and advocating for change that starts behind the walls, including reforming education and training options for learners who are incarcerated. The Center also provides a fair chance employer training program and creates policy recommendations for state and federal legislators who advocate for change.
About Jobs for the Future: Jobs for the Future (JFF) drives transformation of the American workforce and education systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all. www.jff.org. For media inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About ECMC Foundation: ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to improve higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments to remove barriers to postsecondary completion; build the capacity of institutions, systems and organizations; and transform the postsecondary ecosystem using a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to support both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting www.ecmcfoundation.org and ECMC Group by visiting www.ecmcgroup.org.