Inmates learn warehouse skills
Published 9:30 am Saturday, April 2, 2011
BY WENDY HARRISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—They learned to use computers in a warehouse setting. They loaded and removed items operating two types of forklifts.
The only difference between these warehouse and distribution operations students and others is that when class was over, they left the Paul D. Camp Community College Regional Workforce Development Center to return to Western Tidewater Regional Jail.
But they won’t be there for long. Most of the eight classmates have a year or less before release, but they will need skills to prepare them for jobs.
“The Warehouse and Distribution Operations program is designed to train the general public,” said Director Bob Hayes. “It was developed in anticipation of increased demand for warehouse workers and particularly for material handler jobs rather than management positions.
“We provided the training for WTRJ at the request of Mr. Sharpe,” Hayes added. “The inmates will receive the Warehouse and Distribution Operations Career Studies Certificate upon completion of the program. We hope this will help them succeed once they are released.”
The career studies certificate can be earned in less than one year, allowing students to certify in warehousing, according to Jeffory Jacobs, who teaches the course along with Wayne White, certified mobile equipment trainer, and business instructors at the college.
“The classes are based on warehousing, team concepts and problem-solving, and a college-level business 101 class,” Jacobs said. “These guys are the cream of the crop — ideal inmates and trustees, who are looking forward to leading a normal life. That’s what we are helping to provide.”
According to Western Tidewater Regional Jail Education Director Ronnie Sharpe, some of the students also have completed a food services manager certificate at Tidewater Community College. This is the first class for the inmates at PDCCC.
“The education program gives them an incentive,” Sharpe said. “They cannot get into this program if they are causing trouble. They have to be model inmates.”
“When trustees go into the work release program, they can go in with a skill,” he continued. “It gives employers someone they can readily use.”
For inmate Alvin Darden, the education program at the jail has provided an opportunity for an additional skill set and to have a foot in the door when he is released. He has about a year left to serve and has completed the food services manager’s certification.
“I realize that opportunities aren’t going to keep coming, so I have to take advantage of them now,” he said. “I know there are no shortcuts in life, you have to put in the work. If they see me again (at the jail) then don’t help me, because I don’t want to help me.”
Darden hopes to offer some inspiration to others one day by speaking out about his experience.
Charles Bane, with about 5½ months left to serve, recognizes the opportunities that partnerships like the one between PDCCC and the jail bring to an inmate returning to the workforce.
“This is a great program,” Bane said. “We get hands-on training that gives us the skills to get a job, and the teachers have all been more than glad to help us any way they can.”
He also is certified as food services manager.
According to Sharpe, the program gives the inmates something that makes them feel good about themselves, which makes a big difference in their outlook on life.
“We want to give them a new choice, so they don’t have to revert back to the old things that got them (in jail),” he said. “It’s a global world now. There’s not a lot of room for you if you are not educated.”
Hayes added that the partnership with the jail is a win-win situation.
“It’s good for them and it underscores what the community college is all about,” he said.
For more information about the certificate, log onto www.pdc.edu/workforce-development/warehouse-distrcsc.php or call 569-6050.