WAYMART — In preparation for their return to society following release, inmates at State Correctional Institute-Waymart (SCI-Waymart) met with local employment representatives, Wednesday, to discuss effective employability tactics at the second annual Career and Re-entry Fair.
“This event is about exposing our learners to the various options for success that are available to them as re-entrants,” explained SCI-Waymart Principal, Michelle Lipko at the event.
“Post-secondary education, private industry, as well as local and state agencies are here today to help you better understand and prepare for what it takes to be successful as a re-entrant.”
Split into morning and afternoon sessions attended by around 100 hopeful re-entrants each, the fair was offered to students in the facility's vocational and academic programs, and to those close to parole looking to reintegrate, explained Mary Beth Pasqualicchio, the Business Occupations teacher at SCI-Waymart.
“They're very excited about it,” said Pasqualicchio of the fair's attendees.
Learners assembled for the morning event represented students in the carpentry, culinary, cosmetology, entrepreneurship, business and technology, and the Commonwealth Secondary Diploma (CSD)/GED programs.
The first attendee, a cosmetology student at SCI-Waymart, stated the fair was, “a great learning experience for me.”
“I found a lot of information that I didn't know,” he added, “information to help me plan for when I get released in two years.”
He explained he entered the cosmetology program without any prior knowledge of the trade and is on-track to get his license before release.
He plans to work under a barber who's cut his hair for 15 years and was meeting with the appropriate speakers to learn how to make that happen.
One attendee, a member of the CSD/GED program relayed he was familiar with some of the organizations such as CareerLink, but the fair “shed some light” on a lot of options open to him, including post-secondary educational options.
He noted the CSD/GED program was flexible and fit around his work schedule with “plenty of time to study.”
He takes his certification test in around a month and is hopeful to re-enter society in May.
“The first step is finding a job and keeping employment,” he said, noting he hopes to enter a vocational field.
In addition to a path towards cosmetological licensing and a CSD/GED, SCI-Waymart's school program offers other certifications and career preparations including:
• NCCER certifications for building trades;
• ServeSafe, non-commercial retail baking and cook level two certifications for culinary artists;
• Training and certifications in Word, Excel and Powerpoint;
• Practice formulating and enacting working business plans.
Speakers and representatives presenting to the students included Susan Birtch from Lackawanna College, George Dillman of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, Patricia Doherty of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Roy Evans who specializes in veterans' employment with PA CareerLink, Louise Menendez of Luzerne County Community College, Justin Harlan and Jeff James of the Bureau of Community Corrections, Charmaine Haggerty of Allen Builders, Cheryl Duquette and Tessa Wright of the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance, and Lcosta Mussoline of the Department of Corrections Re-entry Office.
“In my world, nobody is unemployable,” said Evans, sharing a story of a previous offender who was able to find employment with the VA hospital.
Jeff James noted, “The jobs are out there,” referencing a list of “felon-friendly places of employment,” re-entrants can seek upon release.
“One of the first things that's a good indicator of whether or not they're going to be successful is how hard they look for employment,” he said.
Speakers stated and reiterated the importance of being honest when applying for jobs and making a strong, positive first impression.
“You want to tell people your story and say, 'This is what I can bring to the table now. This is what I can bring to your company, and this is why I am going to be invaluable to you,'” said Wright.
Noting the importance of identifying skill development in everyday interactions such as teamwork and public speaking as part of work done around the facility, Duquette added, “Sell yourself. This is your opportunity to make the best experience and the best person that you can be from the day you get out moving forward and make it as positive as you can be for yourself.”
Some career assistance and development options available to re-entrants highlighted at Wednesday's fair include work placement and self-starting opportunities for those with disabilities through OVR, career placement/connections and GED testing services through CareerLink, and undergraduate degrees and job training certification programs through Lackawanna and Luzerne community colleges.