To train disadvantaged workers in manufacturing skills, the TechHire federal grants program recently funneled $2.1 million into Polk State College’s Partnership for Industrial Employment, the U.S. Department of Labor announced.
TechHire directs funding to unique partnerships designed to create accessibility for low-skilled individuals to obtain work in high-growth sectors. Polk’s program is designed to train current inmates for advanced manufacturing positions.
“This is outstanding news for Polk State and members of the Polk Partnership, but even more so for Polk County,” Eileen Holden, Polk State’s president, said. “With this grant award, Polk State has been entrusted to equip those currently incarcerated with the skills they need to start over in life, and to provide local manufacturers with a new source of highly skilled — and desperately needed — employees. We will deliver on both fronts, and in doing so, we will change lives and entire enterprises.”
The desire to remove obstacles for citizens with criminal records has begun to gain traction nationwide. “Ban the box” is one movement, for example, aimed at convincing employers to abstain from asking potential staffers to reveal criminal records on their applications.
Polk State has committed to obtaining certification training for inmates in a variety of industrial sector jobs, selecting participants in collaboration with the Department of Corrections. Howard Drake of Polk State Corporate College stated that the U.S. Department of Justice recognizes lack of education as one of four main barriers to employment for such individuals.
Local backing is readily available from several entities. The Manufacturing Supply Chain Alliance of Mid-Florida has pledged its support, along with Abe Brown Ministries, a Tampa nonprofit assisting ex-offenders.
Polk State College maintains campuses in Lakeland, Winter Haven and Bartow.