$200,000 Grant to Assist Inmates in Re-Entering Workforce

Kansans in the Johnson County Department of Corrections Adult Residential Center will soon have the opportunity to learn the skills needed to successfully re-enter the workforce thanks to a partnership among Associated Builders and Contractors, Heart of America Chapter (ABC), the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City (HBA) and Workforce Partnership. The organizations are aligning forces to create a six-week training program to produce tradesmen with the skills needed to successfully enter the construction industry — with the help of a $200,000 grant from the State of Kansas.

After collaborating with the HBA and ABC, Workforce Partnership requested the grant money from the State of Kansas to create the training program, which was approved earlier this year, and the money will be administered to Workforce Partnership in a two-year cycle.

“Workforce Partnership has worked with several industries to find jobs for the unemployed but this will be the first time we have funneled people into the construction industry,” said Sloane Gage, director of employer engagement at Workforce Partnership. “With this $200,000, individuals will be trained for the purpose of re-entering the workforce with the skills needed to be successful.”

ABC has an established and highly regarded program for teaching various trades within the construction industry and will provide the training needed to equip the inmates to become skilled laborers. Once completed, graduates of this program will be certified with 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training as well as receive certification from the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) for Carpentry Level 1.

“We know that basic carpentry skills provide a foundation for people to enter a variety of skilled trades,” said ABC President Michele Roberts-Bauer. “The trainees will receive hands-on training from certified instructors who will teach the skills and provide the experience necessary for successful careers not just in carpentry but other trades as well.”

The HBA is the conduit between the newly trained skilled workers and an industry that is currently experiencing an enormous labor shortage. A 2017 workforce study focused on skilled trades, conducted by the HBA in conjunction with Johnson County Contractor Licensing, showed that 75 percent of respondents rate the severity of the labor shortage as high to very high. More specifically, the availability of labor within the carpentry trade was rated as a large or serious shortage by nearly 57 percent of respondents, which is partly why this initial training program will focus on teaching carpentry skills.

“When 60 percent of industry respondents say they are looking to hire new employees in 2017 and 2018 – and not just one employee but one to five employees — it’s a sign there is a labor issue,” said HBA Executive Vice President Josh Clark. “The HBA has created a multi-pronged approach to address the shortage and we are excited to partner with ABC and Workforce Partnership to roll out this program as one facet of that initiative.”

The first six-week training program will begin on March 5 with as many as 15 individuals. The second training session is expected to begin April 2 with a similar number of trainees. Once training is completed and the individuals receive employment, up to 50 percent of their salaries during the first six weeks of on-the-job training will be paid for as well.