Category Archives: adult education

Is it time to go back to school?

A former student recently contacted me with news that he was returning to school.    Yay!   As I’ve said  before, gaining additional education or skills is a great way to  boost your value in the job market.  Particularly these days,  when a surplus of applicants means employers can afford to be picky, and decent-paying  jobs you can get with just a high school diploma are fast disappearing.  

If you follow this blog, you know this is one of my favorite drums to beat.  If you’re new here, you might want to check out:  Five reasons training may be the answer for ex-offenders and others looking to make a fresh start.

That said, with the unemployment rate at 9.6 percent (and well into the double digits  in some sectors and  parts of the country),  training alone won’t guarantee you a job.  I’ve worked with a number of people with criminal records who’ve complained their certificates and additional degrees haven’t opened the doors they expected.   So before you jump back into the classroom, here are some things to consider  to help ensure you do it the right way:  

Look for programs that offer work experience or require an internship. 

The best way to get hired is to show an employer what you can do. Perhaps that’s why some of the strongest training and degree programs require that you do on-the-job training or an internship.   A 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found companies offered jobs to nearly 70 percent of their interns.   In addition, nearly a third of the new college graduates that employers hired in 2007 were from their internship programs.  Even allowing that the recession has likely brought those numbers down some, that’s still a pretty good plug  for the benefits of getting your foot in the door early.  And even if an internship doesn’t lead to a job, you’ve still got a solid professional reference to use to find your next position.   

Do your homework

Don’t sign up for the first program that turns up in your junk mail or on the wall of  a subway train.  Ask a career counselor or job placement expert at your local state employment or CareerOneStop center for recommendations.  Look at accredited colleges or universities, or certificate programs offered by legitimate education and training firms.  Many online courses are also good, but be aware that online scams abound, so do your research.  Don’t be afraid to ask how a school’s  students  have fared. What are their job placement rates?  Can you talk to previous students about their experiences?   Make sure you know what you’re getting for your money.  The FTC, for example, has identified a number of scams that entice you to by software to train yourself for  a new career in medical billing and coding.  What they don’t tell you is that without connections or certification, you typically can’t find clients so it’s difficult to make money.     So again, buyer beware.

Be realistic

Can you devote the time you need to taking a course right now?   Can you afford it — both in terms of time and money?  Do you have an adequate understanding of the work your class(es) will entail and the number of years you might have to labor at lower levels before your training pays off?   When you’re eager to get started, it’s easy to overlook these questions, but doing so can lead to disappointment. Additionally, many people  coming out of the legal system  must contend with financial obligations like fines, court costs, mandated child support or restitution, which can make paying for and/or attending training impractical in the short-run, even if you can obtain a grant.  My former student had to work two jobs for nearly a year to pay his debts before he had enough money to consider taking a course.  But since he took the long-term view and didn’t expect everything to happen instantly, things worked out.    

Put the work in 

My sister recently started training to become a medical assistant.  Right off, she ran into fellow classmates copying others’ answers, failing to do the homework or simply not putting the effort in.   This won’t cut it come test time,  and it’s certainly not going to work when you’re being asked to assist a doctor in a medical procedure.  What’s more, when instructors hear of possible employment opportunities, they’re going to mention them to the hardest working students, not the slackers.  So if you’re too busy with work and other obligations to concentrate on a course now, or you’re simply not interested in the subject matter, do yourself a favor and save your time and money.

Readers how about you?  I’d love to hear from folks who have gone on to get additional training.  How did you do it?  What’s worked for you?  Is there anything you now would do differently?

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Filed under adult education, education ex-offenders, job search ex-offenders, job training, second chances, starting over, training ex-offenders, training for ex-offenders, unemployment

Just out: a nationwide guide to reentry programs

If you’re looking for help starting over, you might want to check-out this great new guide reentry programs.

The searchable database was the brainchild of  the Council of State Goverments Justice Center with support from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA.

The goal of new online Reentry Programs Database is to provide a comprehensive catalog of  initiatives to help former adult and juvenile offenders and those with criminal records.  It’s a great idea, and the CGS is enoucraging agencies to update their data so that users will be able to locate the most current information on reentry.

When I took a look at the guide this past week, it was simple enough to search by entering your city and state and the type of assistance you were seeking.  The idea is very similar to a resource offered by the National Hire Network, which also offers a state-by state listing of reentry and other helpful resources.

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Filed under addiction and recovery, adult education, education ex-offenders, employment assistance ex-offenders, hope for ex-offenders, reentry, reentry resources, second chances, starting over, training for ex-offenders

When Mom’s away

On Mother’s Day it’s worth remembering that for kids whose moms are incarcerated, there won’t be much to celebrate. 

Currently, there are  upwards of 207,000 women in U.S. prisons or jails —  an 800 percent increase since the late 1970s.   In fact, women today account for just under 10 percent of the total incarcerated population, according to the most recent statistics from the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project.   Of those, some 62 percent have children under 18.  Two-thirds of these children lived with their mother before she began serving her sentence. 

In addition, some 5 percent of women reported being pregnant at the time they went into custody.  This, combined with the desire to keep families intact has even led to a growing trend in prison nurseries.

Note: I’m not saying that women shouldn’t pay the price for their behavior just because they’re typically the primary caregivers for their children.  I do believe, however, that more needs to be done to  minimize the impact of prison terms on offenders’ innocent kids.  Many reentry organizations do this with counseling and support groups they offer to families of offenders.    The Family and Corrections Network, has a number of programs attempting to meet the needs of the families of the incarcerated.

It’s support the kids need.  One Mom I recently worked with said her 10 year old daughter kept trying to get in trouble at school after her mother was sentenced to 18 months in jail.  “She even told me that if I she got sent to prison, then we could be together.  It was horrible.”  For another Mom, it was easier not to tell her 4 year old.   As a result, he currently thinks she was away at school all that time. 

In many  cases, mothers lose custody of their children, who are farmed out to foster homes or distant relatives.  That makes re-entry parenting all that much harder.

So today, think of the Moms and kids.   And Moms and kids,  if you’ve faced this challenge, we’d love to know how you handled it.

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Filed under adult education, employers hiring ex-offenders, women ex-offenders