Provide Certified Technical Skills Training

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Certified Technical Skills that lead to professional certification, trade certification, or professional designation, often called simply certification, is a designation earned by a person to assure their qualifications in performing a job or task. Certifications are portable, evidence-based credentials that measure essential workplace skills and are a reliable predictor of workplace success.

Many offender certification programs are created, sponsored, or affiliated with the Department of Labor (DOL), professional associations, trade organizations, or private vendors interested in raising standards.

Certificate programs can be relatively quick and simple, such as forklift training or long and complex, such as a DOL Apprenticeship. Regardless of complexity, best practice certification programs require the same criteria. They should be

  • Designed to prepare the offender for an occupation or occupational area;
  • Knowledge-based; however, the credential should contain a performance based component;
  • Taught by someone with an industry certification or license, or certain number of years in the field;
  • Standardized and graded or monitored independently by a subject matter expert;
  • Recognized by industry, trade or professional associations through which a credential is awarded.


In a Correctional Industries (CI) environment, certificate programs prepare offenders to work in a specialized trade, both while incarcerated and upon release. Evidence has shown when an employer sees certifications on an offender’s resume, it sets him/her apart from other candidates applying for the same job.

Technical certification programs provide the following for:

The offender

  • Re-entry success
  • Validation of the attainment of job skills needed for employability
  • Reduction or elimination of employment barriers

For offenders, there are challenges that they face with the very nature of having been incarcerated. There is a strong chance that they faced many challenges prior to incarceration that may have contributed to their risk factors, which are identified as barriers to success when reintegrating into the community. Technical certifications have standards that are known industry-wide and employers expect that an offender has mastered a specific skill level with the completion of a certified training program.

By offering certified technical programs, Correctional Industries provide offenders with a recognized and measured set of job skills that they can take into the job market. Certified training provides offenders with job skills equal to their peers, skills that can meet the labor market regardless of the geographic region and offer the offender one less barrier to overcome upon release.

The Correctional Industry Program

  • Offers support for the foundation of programs by promoting rehabilitation through meaningful job training and by training workers in the skills needed by correctional industry management to optimize industry operations;
  • Legitimizes and validates programs offered;
  • Measures the effectiveness of training programs;
  • Provides a means to respond to current labor market demands.

Certified technical programs assist the Correctional Industry by providing a more stable workforce that must remain in place during the entire certification process, and allows management to maximize industry operations and output through a well trained workforce.

For Correctional Industries Directors and staff, utilizing certified programs can assist in program and staff evaluation. Most importantly, these programs can be tied to the tracking and documentation of recidivism rates and successes. Correctional Industries can provide data that can be easily understood by interested political, business and community partners. In many cases, this data is used to support funding and budgets.


  1. Research labor market information.

    Consult with the Department of Labor (DOL) in your state to determine the current and projected skill/employment needs. The DOL can provide current and relevant data to assist in deciding where certification programs will have the greatest impact. Conduct independent research with employers to determine their specific technical skills they are seeking. Consult employers in the geographic areas where offenders will be released.

  2. Research barriers to success.

    Collaborate with Case Management Staff and Educational Services staff to determine barriers to success that should be addressed in certification programs. This may include topics such as Professional Communication, Interviewing Skills and Resume Writing. Correctional Industries should utilize job readiness assessments to inform the offender and instructors as the individual areas for growth and improvement.

  3. Research industry-wide technical training and certifications.

    There are many manufacturing programs that can be implemented throughout Correctional Industries, such as quality or safety programs. Certified instructors from OSHA or other nationally recognized organizations are willing to provide certified training courses to offenders. Quality programs such as International Organization of Standardization (ISO), Lean Manufacturing, etc. can be implemented.

  4. Identify focus areas for technical training.

    Identify areas within your current Correctional Industries that are suitable for technical skills certification. Research training available that offer certifications. Factors to consider when identifying focus industries are:

    • Labor market needs
    • Correctional Industry needs
    • Space availability
    • Funding (refer to the component on Financial Sustainability)
    • Staff and operational ability
    • Support from Prison facility
  5. Identify resources.

    Review resources needed including equipment tracking, space, and staffing. Identify staff that can provide certified skills training and/or provide tracking, monitoring and documentation for outside program providers.

  6. Pursue partnerships with certificate program providers.

    Partnering organizations will often have published skill/technical curriculums, training and certification programs for instructors, and discounts on services. It is important for Correctional Industries to evaluate their partnerships with local, State and National program providers to determine the best matches.

    • U.S. or local DOL, other federal/state agencies such as OSHA, Department of Education, etc. There are numerous programs providers throughout the United States that work with Correctional Industries. It is important, going into a partnership; to be able to clearly articulate what CI’s needs are in order for the partner organization to determine if they have complementing services.
    • Universities, community colleges and technical schools. Schools and universities are an excellent resource for classroom training and will often provide this training within the prison environment.
    • Trade and technical organizations. Nationwide, there are many trade organizations that are willing to partner with Correctional Industries. They see the potential of building a trained workforce. Often, those organizations are seeking individuals who have the hard to find, specialized skill sets.
    • Labor unions. Seek partnerships with the Training Counsel of both public and private labor unions to provide apprenticeship training. This first level apprenticeship provides offenders with the highest priority level for union employment upon release. Partnerships may also include providing tools or discounted union dues upon release.
    • Vendors for technical equipment training. With the fast changing pace of technology, vendors are now offering training as part of equipment purchasing costs and raw material education. Offenders can attend this equipment training and receive certificates from the vendors certifying their knowledge. Webinars offered by vendors to train offenders are another important resource that can be used.
    • Private industry partners. PIE and service providers offer unique training opportunities for offenders and often have certifications programs already developed.
  7. Obtain compliance verification in conjunction with your Department of Corrections or through external sources.
    • Workforce Development Assessments
    • PIE Assessments
    • ACA Audits
    • Other assessments, i.e. DOL, higher education
In-house capabilities – While not recognized at the same level, certifications of training for simple skill level tasks that do not have outside certification possibilities can be provided by Correctional Industries. The Department of Labor will often partner with CI’s to assist in identifying skills associated with each job. These areas may include stock room clerk, janitor, painter, etc. Document the skills that must be achieved and the number of hours required to create an in-house certification.


  • Partnerships created
  • Hours of technical training provided
  • Offenders enrolled in certified technical training
  • Certificates awarded
  • Offenders securing employment within 90 days of release




Saylor, W. G., Gaes, G. (1997) Training Inmates through Industrial Participation and Vocational and Apprenticeship Instruction. Available at

Workforce GPS Apprenticeship 
Advanced Job Skills Training Prepares Prisoners for Release, Employment 
Benefits Extend to Community, Lesia Winiarskyj 
Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook 
National Institute of Corrections 
US Department of Labor Apprenticeship Programs

ACA Standards 
Association for Linen Management Certification Programs 
Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Training and Certification 
National Certification for the Blind – Braille Certification 
National Institute of Corrections – Offender Workforce Development Specialist 
OSHA Forklift Training Information 
Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks

Mechanism for Tracking Process/Progress 
The Department of Labor can be a partner in tracking the process and progress of the successful employment of offenders, once they return to the community. If given the names and identification numbers of individuals, the DOL is able to track and report employment history once offenders re-enter the job market.

Job Readiness Assessments 
The following is a list of available resources; this is not meant to be an endorsement of any one product. All products may be found on-line.

Barriers to Employment Success Inventory (BESI), John J. Liptak, Ed.D.* 
BESI helps individuals identify their major barriers to obtaining a job or succeeding in their employment.

Job search Knowledge Scale(JSKS), John J. Liptak, Ed.D* 
JSKShelps determine how much an individual knows about looking for work to discover the job search skills they need to develop to find work faster. TheJSKS offers guidance on the job search methods that work best and provides journaling space to establish job search goals.

The Job Search Attitude Inventory (JSAI), John J. Liptak, Ed.D.* 
A 40-item inventory designed to make job seekers more aware of their self-directed and other-directed attitudes about their search for employment.

*This Triadic Job Search Model uses the three assessments to help all individuals understand all of the factors that contribute to job search and success, including attitudes toward the job search and knowledge of job searches.

Harrington-O’Shea Career Decision Maker System Revised (CDM-R), Arthur J. O’Shea, PhD, Rich Feller, PhD. Assesses occupational interests, values and abilities and matches these dimensions to career options.

Choices, Bridges Transition. 
A self-paced computer program used to educate and aid in choosing between various occupations, jobs and work potentially available. The Choices program provides the information necessary for the student to make informed decisions about their career and transition planning.

Work Keys is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce. This series of tests measures foundational and soft skills and offers specialized assessments to target institutional needs.

CI Models with Data to Support Success

California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA)

Indiana PEN Products – Career Focused Reentry

Washington State CI R.I.T.E. Program