By Becky Deeb, New Enterprise Development Manager/PIO
Pen Products, Indiana Department of Correction


The 2012 Offender Workforce Development Specialist training was completed on June 8th at the Correctional Training Institute, New Castle, Indiana. Twenty eight individuals completed the 180 hour training and received their Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) certification. This year’s class, selected through a statewide application process, represented a diverse array of agencies, including the Indiana Department of Correction, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and county correctional jurisdictions.

Indiana’s 2012 OWDS Training Class Hard at Work

Indiana’s 2012 OWDS Training Class Hard at Work

Indiana has grown from one certified OWDS in 2009 to a total of seventy with the graduation of the 2012 class. PEN Products, Indiana’s Correctional Industries, is proud to now have nine of those seventy working in its industry operations. The OWDS training is provided through a state partnership between the National Institute of Corrections and PEN Products. Currently, Indiana is the only Correctional Industries program to solely hold a state partnership with the NIC to facilitate the full 180 hour O…ffender Workforce Development Specialist training. As well as the nine certified OWDS, PEN Products has three certified OWDS instructors, Tanya Zimmerman, Lisa Williams and Doug Evans.

“Offender Workforce Development Specialist Training has provided this group of participants a rare opportunity to step outside of their everyday jobs and learn new and effective skills,” said Doug Evans, State Program Manager for the OWDS project. “Additionally, it has opened the door for collaborations between agencies and individual practitioners across Indiana”.

For many years it has been widely known that employment plays an important role in
the transition from prison to community. This rigorous training provides corrections sta…ff and community partners with the professional skills needed to help offenders secure and maintain employment. It also promotes the coordination of services between agencies, an essential component of Indiana’s reentry e…fforts.

Brandon Ho†ffman – gains post release employment

Brandon Ho†ffman – gains post release employment

During this year’s training, ex-o…ffender, Brandon Hoffman, spoke to class on what it takes for an ex-felon to obtain employment. He shared the importance of OWDS principles in finding post-release employment. He also emphasized skills and confidence gained at PEN’s Career Resource Center and practicing “elevator speeches” at PEN’s Central Office. Hoffman said that he remembered in his Career Resource Center training the importance of employment upon release and how 85% of those re-arrested are unemployed at the time of re-arrest. He was determined that this was not going to happen to him. He had worked too hard, come too far to fail. On his first day of looking for a job, this fact weighed heavily on his mind. When he called back a restaurant chain, he asked for and received a second interview. When he explained to them the skills he had in preparing Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, they were interested in someone to do all the scheduling and publishing of the work schedules. As a result, Ho…ffman was hired on the spot. Brandon Hoffman shared with the OWDS training class what he feels got him the job that day were the skills and the work ethic that he possessed. These skills were polished while visiting the Career Resource Center, attending Career Planning Workshops and working in a real office setting at PEN Product’s Central Office.

The OWDS Training was developed by the National Institute of Corrections in partnership
with the National Career Development Association. The training provides participants with the professional skills needed to assist offenders with career planning, job placement, job retention, and career advancement.

“The program works to establish partnerships where none may have existed before,” reports John Rakis, a consultant for the Transition and O…ffender and Workforce Development Division of the National Institute of Corrections. “It is designed to promote a seamless continuum of expert workforce development services from correctional facility to the community and is central to the Institute’s commitment to encourage the use of evidenced-based practices.”

The National Institute of Corrections, an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, was created in 1974 as a resource for practitioners in the Corrections field and to provide leadership and assistance to the field.