Returning to the workforce: offenders graduate from training program in Pacific Region


The demand for resource-based workers in British Columbia is expected to rise significantly in the next 10 years in areas such as forestry, logging, mining, oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG). The LNG predictions alone call for 100,000 jobs to be filled in the resources sector of British Columbia over the next decade.

Seeing this need,  a year ago the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) Prince George Parole Office collaborated with the College of New Caledonia (CNC), which has provided a number of no-cost training programs to offenders living on conditional release in the past several years, to write a proposal for an 11-week Reintegration Industry Training Program exclusively for CSC offenders. This program was valued at $480,000 and funded by the Provincial Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. The idea behind the training was to train up to 48 graduates over two years that would be able to meet this growing demand for skilled resource workers.  

The proposal included support from the Prince George Parole Office, the Employment to Empowerment Project and Director of Community Corrections Mike Hanly. The Employment to Empowerment Project was able to dedicate significant resources in the form of Project Manager Lisa Bayne attending meetings, presentations and creating documents that helped get the word out to all areas of the Region. Champion Bobbi Sandhu ensured all the wardens and senior management supported the project at every step.

Funding was approved in the fall of 2015, and work began to create a candidate list of 16 offenders out of 27 applicants. The Prince George parole office did a tremendous job with the paperwork and vetting of the candidates to ensure we began with a full classroom.  Prince George Parole truly went above and beyond to make this program successful.

The program addresses areas such as self-management, life skills, basic computer skills and career preparation, as well as 20 training courses including First Aid, fall protection, confined space, petroleum safety, H2S Alive, S100 fire suppression and transportation of dangerous goods.

The full-time program was demanding, and although four students did not make it to the end, we are pleased to report that 12 men and women offenders from CSC and one from the provincial system graduated on April 20, 2016. Each of these graduates is now in an excellent position to find meaningful work in the community.

The ceremony at the college was a formal affair with speeches from CSC, the Industry Training Authority and the college.

“This group had a massive transition to get here but they embraced it,” said Steve Chase from CNC. “It showed real character and resilience. They are authentic, real, goal-oriented and proactive. It has been a privilege to have been involved with this group.”

The Industry Training Authority is the contract authority for the funds, and as a result has been able to offer additional trades supports to the students. Eight students recently wrote exams to continue their participation in the Foundation Trades program.

This project was spearheaded by Parole Officer Sonja Arsenault and A/POS Stephanie Clark-Lang. Sonja reports that the college is very happy with the students and appreciates their motivation.

One graduate, MG, who is on an Unescorted Temporary Absence (UTA) release, has already changed his plans so that he can reside in Prince George upon release.

“The instructors are great to work with and the material was engaging,” he said, adding that he feels his success in this program is a stepping stone in his life, and that he now has the tools to allow him to safely return to the community.

“MG has been engaged since day one,” said PO Arsenault. “He actively participated and was the first one there every morning. He also used his UTA time to create a support network for his upcoming release. He spent time after school attending the gym, AA meeting and social outings.”

Another graduate has already lined up a job because of his involvement in this program. In addition, a local construction company that supported the program by donating hard hats is planning to interview all of the graduates this week with an eye to hiring some of them to work.

There were a number of community cases transferred to Prince George for the program. This influx of cases was welcomed by the Prince George Parole Office as they have experienced a reduction in their caseloads over the past several years.

The next cohort of 16 candidates will begin in October 2016 and the final cohort will run in October 2017. There have already been 26 applications made by inmates and offenders for the next session.

Through this program, Pacific Region is supporting the safe reintegration of offenders while at the same time contributing to a robust economy.

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