Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is starting pilot projects in three state prisons and four youth development centers to help 105 inmates get certified in skilled jobs, such as electrical work, welding and carpentry.
The hope is that it will be expanded to help inmates re-enter society and reduce recidivism.
At a Capitol news conference with Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey and Justice Secretary John Tilley, Bevin said Kentucky spends about $500 million a year incarcerating people.
He said the new initiative, called “Justice to Journeyman,” places inmates on track to earn a nationally recognized journeyman credential in a skilled trade, starting with training they receive inside Kentucky prisons.
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The program will help inmates connect with private employers who have agreed to consider hiring former felons.
Ramsey said the state has had previous apprenticeship programs, but the latest effort involves collaboration between the two state cabinets and businesses to certify inmates for occupations that need more workers.
Tilley said 18,650 people a year in Kentucky are released from prisons. “If you don’t have a job, 40 percent go back,” he said.
The pilot program will offer courses in electrical work at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Shelby County, welding at Northpoint Training Center near Burgin, and carpentry at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in Morgan County.
Youth Centers participating in the project are in Kenton, Adair, Mayfield and the Lake Cumberland area.
Bevin praised Corey Bard, chief financial officer for Amteck, a Lexington business involved in the electrical contracting industry, for expressing interest in the “good skilled labor” that Bevin said the program will produce.
Other groups participating in the program include United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters & Service Technicians (Local 502) in Louisville, and the Associated Builders & Contractors Chapter of Indiana/Kentucky.
Tilley said costs for the projects are minimal since instructors and material already are in place. “This is a more focused attempt in enhancing this good program,” he said.
Bevin’s communications office said apprentices earn an average starting wage of $15 an hour, and 91 percent of apprentices retain employment after the program ends.