The Third Tier of Offender Workforce Development Training – Offender Employment Retention Specialist


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The Third Tier of Offender Workforce Development Training – Offender Employment Retention Specialist
By Susan Cunningham, OWDS, GCDF, OERS, Director of Offender Development & Transitional Services, TRICOR

According to The National Institute of Corrections: “The Offender Employment Retention Specialist Training will provide practitioners the knowledge, skill, and abilities to develop specialized services and programming for offenders targeted as being at high risk for job loss.”

Over the last three years, NCIA has formally collaborated with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to provide research based professional development opportunities for Correctional Industry (CI) employees in the field of offender workforce development and successful offender reentry. Before the NCIA and NIC partnership was formalized, NIC had developed two tiers of development opportunities for practitioners working with offenders in the field of workforce development and reentry: Offender Employment Specialist (OES) and the Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS). Those training programs required specific training and mastery of materials.  CI employees participated in OES at NCIA conferences and in their home states whereas the OWDS teams are strategically selected and offered through a NIC training team.

TRICOR in Tennessee sponsored the first OWDS Team with CI participants.  Soon after, NCIA and NIC partnered to develop the first national NCIA OWDS Team! That team incorporated Tennessee and Indiana CIs’ OWDSs into the NCIA Team.  These OWDSs have also become Instructors. Currently, the NCIA Team is currently preparing to present the second of three regional trainings – Workforce Development Regional Training: Enhancing Correctional Industries’ Role in Reentry.

This leads to the third tier of the NIC’s workforce development series, the Offender Employment Retention Specialist (OERS).  At the time of the final stages of curriculum development, five CI OWDSs were invited by NIC to participate in the curriculum review and to nationally pilot the Offender Employment Retention Specialist certification training for employees in the correctional field who hold the national training certification as Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS). The CI participants were: Regina Banks (CA), Doug Evans (IN), Lisa Williams (IN), Julie Perrey (TN) and Susan Cunningham (TN).

This progressive series of workforce development curriculum is critical to the success of the offenders who are trained in CI.  The series teaches practitioners a range of skills that includes collaboration, building resources, developing a foundation in career theory and career development strategies, case management and skills in cognitive based principles with motivational interviewing strategies.  The NCIA Board of Directors and the Reentry Task Force have supported the collaboration with NIC to develop CI practitioners in the best known body of knowledge to serve the offender workforce.

Regina Banks, Doug Evans, Lisa Williams, Julie Perrey and Susan Cunningham are among the participants in the OERS curriculum review and pilot certification training