The use of technology in the workplace is always changing, which compounds the challenges facing those seeking to reenter society after incarceration. That’s why CoreCivic offers a variety of vocational programming that will help inmates keep their job skills up-to-date – or even learn a new trade.
In the summer of 2015, CoreCivic’s Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Okla. become a Certiport Authorized Testing Center – our company’s first center of this kind. This launched a new vocational program that offered inmates the ability to become a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS).
Since then, enrollment has steadily increased as the program has gained popularity among inmates. It’s now one of the most popular programs in a wide range of offerings at the facility, including GED preparation and testing, post-secondary studies and life skills.
Steve Holley, the computer instructor at Cimarron for the last three years, played a critical role in getting the program off the ground. Knowing how useful introductory-level technology certification is for inmates reentering the workforce, and that training would have to occur offline due to the facility’s security requirements, he researched third-party vendors and found Certiport.
“We adopted MOS because it develops skills we all use — Microsoft Office programs,” he said. “These skills are useful in almost any job, and we knew adding the certification to our vocational programs would appeal to a lot of our inmates who want to get jobs and stay out of prison when released.”
MOS teaches individuals to expertly use Microsoft applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. The certifications range all the way up to a Mastery level for achieving Specialist status in four or more areas. The certification is widely recognized, making an inmate’s resume more attractive to employers. Even before release, inmates at Cimarron with certification experience put their training to use by teaching fellow inmates who are just beginning the courses.
Danny Clements was one of the first inmates to sign up for the course. He went on to earn not only MOS certification, but also to become an MOS Master — something only 0.3 percent of all certificate holders achieve. While working toward his Master Level, Clements also began tutoring other inmates enrolled in the program to keep his skills sharp.
Since the program launched, Cimarron inmates began reaching new levels of expertise:
- More than 45 inmates had enrolled in the certification program by the end of 2016, which includes studying hard and participating in two one-hour computer lab sessions per week.
- Thirteen earned certifications in Digital Literacy.
- Seventeen earned MOS certification.
- Two earned MOS Master designation, having completed more than four certifications, and are now working on Microsoft Technology Associate certifications.
- Inmates who have completed the course are now using their new expertise to teach other inmates, gaining additional experience.
As the program grows more popular among inmates, Cimarron’s computer lab is full, and the list to gain entry into the class is growing — which is just what Holley hopes to continue.
“Demand for the program is high,” says Holley, “and I find that once an inmate earns one certification, they are more motivated to earn another and another and so on.”
Visit here learn more about Certiport Authorized Testing Centers and here to learn more about the MOS certification program. To learn more about CoreCivic’s reentry programs and our commitment to reducing recidivism, visit www.changeinpeople.com.