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Iowa prisoners take advantage of skill-based training and education programs

Anamosa State Penitentiary
Anamosa State Penitentiary

DES MOINES – Many “returning citizens” in the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) are taking advantage of opportunities in a skill-based training and education program. The IDOC has partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship to develop apprenticeship programs in five of our nine state institutions. A pilot program was started at the Anamosa State Penitentiary in early 2014. In June of 2015 we added programs for men, at Clarinda, Rockwell City, Newton, and one for women at Mitchellville. In FY16 the Department plans to start programs at the remaining four facilities, Ft. Madison, Mt. Pleasant, Oakdale (IMCC), and Ft. Dodge.

There are currently sixteen apprenticeship programs offered: cabinet maker, welding combination, metal fabrication, computer operation, electrical maintenance, plumbing, cooking, refrigeration/air conditioning. Apprenticeship participants are taught using on-the-job training. Each year includes 144 hours of curriculum for each year in the program. The programs range from one year to five years.

The IDOC currently has 138 participants in an apprenticeship programs. That number has been gradually increasing. Twenty-three participants who completed the basic electrical program have moved on to study for the Iowa Electrical License test so they can become an A or B Journeyman. They can complete that before they leave the corrections system.

IDOC expects participants to come out of the programs with a high level of skill and education in the trade they choose. We also train our participants in quality control, safety regulations such as Lock-Out / Tag-Out, proper safeguarding, equipment learning lessons, the right to know, etc. The results of the program are to return participants as successful citizens and to help fill technical skilled jobs in the market place. IDOC mission is to advance successful offender reentry, to protect the staff and offenders from victimization.

Registered Apprenticeships are innovative work-based learning and post-secondary earn-and-learn models that meet national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor or federally recognized state apprenticeship agencies.

Apprentices throughout the US start working from day one with incremental wage increases as they become more proficient. The average starting wage is approximately $15 per hour. The average wage for a fully proficient worker who has completed an apprenticeship is approximately $50,000 annually. Apprentices who complete their program earn approximately $300,000 more over their career than non-participants.

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