Lee College provides workforce training to offender students in prisons. The first and most important step is to establish a trusting relationship. For Lee College that meant to form a relationship with the unit warden as well as the supervisors of the departments we would have future apprentices employed.
Through collaborative efforts through input from the prisons we decided on the most appropriate courses which would benefit the students upon release and systems on how we would track the necessary RTI and on-the-job-training.
We meet continually with the department supervisors to discuss aspects of the apprenticeship, mentoring, tracking and barriers or other information we might need in the future to make sure the selected individuals are successful in their area of study.
Lee College offers several technical courses to our students, so we had to explore and align industries with these courses. We decided to start at the Ellis Unit, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison, because it employs many of our students within the trade they have been educated. The trades we have at the Ellis Unit are cabinet making, HVAC and horticulture. Ellis Unit has a chair factory that employs our students from the cabinet making class and that factory constructs the chairs, tables, and desks for all TDCJ facilities throughout Texas. The prison also has a bus barn to repair all TDCJ buses that we can use students from our automotive class at the Walls Unit. There is a large maintenance department where our students who have completed the HVAC class can work. Each instructor of the vocational classes has workers who have completed the class to help maintain their areas and act as mentors for the current students.
Horticulture, HVAC, and cabinet making each have courses that would apply toward a certificate Once established on the Ellis Unit, we moved to the Walls Unit where Lee College offers an automotive class. At this unit, the automotive shop maintains all the cars for TDCJ. We focused on recruiting students who have completed their certificates and are currently employed in the departments that utilize their education.
The third important step we had to design was the variety of programs and certificates we could offer the apprentices.