What do power tools, military trucks, and teamwork have in common? They are all part of the average workday for inmates working in the vehicle shop at Warkworth Institution in Campbellford, Ontario.
The shop is part of the CORCAN employment and employability program, which provides on-the-job training to inmates. For the past 12 years, inmates have been refurbishing vehicles for the Department of National Defence (DND), among other clients.
They work on vehicles such as giant two-and-a-half tonne Heavy Logistics Vehicle Wheel (HLVW) and Medium Logistics Vehicle Wheel (MLVW) tanker trucks.
“The trucks are brought in by a flatbed trailer – they come right to our door, we unload them, and push them in with forklifts. We take them off the ground, lift them up on jacks, and get to work on them,” said Henry Ehrenreich, one of the CORCAN instructors on site.
When the trucks arrive, the team disassembles and inspects every part. They verify usable and needed parts, identified by DND. They are then diligently packaged and shipped to a warehouse in Montreal.
This is hard work, but also a great learning opportunity for inmates. While working in CORCAN sites, inmates can apply their knowledge, technical skills, and soft skills. Programs like these help enhance inmates’ work experience and teaches them valuable, practical skills such as what tools to use and how, as well as workplace safety.
The vehicle shop has become popular among inmates at Warkworth Institution. In order to participate, they must be interviewed – much like in a community work environment. “We don’t just accept anyone in the program. You have to show us that you meet the criteria and you have to show up to work, have a goal in mind, and get along with other people,” said Henry. “For us, what they did (to get in here) doesn’t make the work go faster or slower. It has no effect, it’s not our job to judge them, it’s our job to instruct them,” said Henry.
“I try to relate to them the best I can. Sometimes that means talking about my experiences, or letting them know this kind of work has worked for me,” he added.
The chances of securing a job upon release are much better when inmates are equipped with the technical, transferable, and soft skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Preparing them to find a job in the community and maintain it is the ultimate goal of the offender employment and employability program.
At the vehicle Shop, inmates gain the tools they need to register under the Ontario College of Trades as an apprentice to continue their training and work upon release. As a result, hearing released inmates’ success stories has become a common occurrence.
“Every inmate that leaves and does not commit a crime again for the rest of their life is a success. I feel like we’ve done a good job and that means a lot to us here.”
To learn more about CORCAN’s employment and employability programs for inmates, please visit the CORCAN section of the CSC website.