Picente: MVCC, Sheriff, MVCAA Collaborate To Provide Workplace Success Class at Jail

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., today announced that the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office and Mohawk Valley Community College have developed the first-ever college coursework to be delivered on-site at the Oneida County Correctional Facility.

“Many of the young adults who come to the County Jail were arrested because they got mixed up with the wrong people, made a lot of bad decisions, and are still young enough that they can pull their lives back together, get the education and training they need to get a job, and build a good life,” Picente said. “This collaboration recognizes that we need to intervene to make these young adults employable. That’s not only good for them, it is good for the community.”
Mohawk Valley Community College’s Workplace Success courses are designed to equip students with the skills necessary to get, keep and do well on the job. Students will come away with skills enabling them to be more competitive and valued in the workforce. This course provides a range of skills necessary for success in the workplace, including successful interviewing techniques and communication skills. Other skills include decision making, problem solving, team management, listening and speaking. Leadership styles and cultural diversity in the workplace are also discussed. Each student will be enrolled in MVCC and will receive an official transcript at the completion of the course. The course will be five and half weeks and will incorporate all of the material as does the on-campus course, including a final exam. The goal of the program is to bring to the attention of these youth the importance of education and to familiarize them with a college type setting.
Oneida County Sheriff Daniel Middaugh said, “Young people who have committed a crime and who fail to enter the job market are going to end up returning here, or going off to state prison,” Middaugh said. “My philosophy of corrections is that we exist to protect the public safety. All of the research says that the time to start helping offenders change their lives is while they are still in jail. I think we make the public and the community safer if we provide the opportunity for offenders to leave here and find work. That reduces crime in our communities, and it is a pro-active way to protect potential crime victims.”
Mohawk Valley College President Randall Van Wagoner said that MVCC is operating the pilot project in response to employer needs. “Providing a skilled workforce to local employers is central to our mission as a community college” Van Wagoner said. “When we speak with employers, they want young people who can learn from mistakes, who can work well with others in the workplace, and who will bring with them the basic skills employers need. We developed our Workplace Success curriculum to address those needs, and we have adapted it for this specific population to help them overcome barriers in math and writing to acquire critical skills. We are also hoping to have these students continue on into a degree program at MVCC in a major of their choice to better obtain employment.”
Amy Turner, Executive Director of Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency Inc., said that the agency wanted to extend the options provided to inmates through the existing Life Skills program offered at the jail through MVCAA. “The Life Skills programming we offer provides part of what these young adults need when they come back to the community, but they need education as well as to better understand concepts such as teamwork, healthy relationships, and anger management,” Turner said. “Many of the people we work with did not succeed in school, they don’t know how to succeed at looking for work, and they don’t know how to escape the habits that got them in trouble. Linking life skills with education will help them learn new ways to succeed. The Sheriff’s Office has allowed us to try an expanded approach to better serve the community, and we appreciate the opportunity”
Alice Savino, Executive Director of the Workforce Investment Board, said the project offers a solution to a commonly expressed problem. “Employers are always looking for people who will be motivated to keep a job, to stay out of trouble and to succeed. Many of the young adults at the jail want to change their lives, but they need help starting in a new direction. MVCC’s program helps them by preparing them to succeed at work, and gives them the confidence they need that when they come back to the community, they can find work, leave old habits behind, and move forward. I want to thank MVCC and the Sheriff for their efforts to offer a new level of educational activity inside the jail. Time is critical in helping offenders successfully transition to work. By having a pre-release program at the jail, we have a partnership that can help people to begin preparing for work or further education right away”
“Someone who has broken the law has one strike against them.” Picente said. “If we can keep that person from having two strikes against them – and if we can do that while that offender is still young and help that offender lead a productive work life – we are improving the public safety climate of our community. MVCC and the Sheriff’s Office are taking a great step forward to help the community, and help young people with many years ahead of them get on the right road.”