Berks Connections /Pretrial Services (BCPS) is one of 14 recipients nationwide to be recently awarded a U.S. Department of Labor Reentry Projects grant. BCPS will use the $1,237,737 grant to fund a comprehensive training program in the construction trades for returning citizens involved in their workforce development programs.
BCPS will partner with the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center (RMCTC), Habitat for Humanity Berks County (HFHBC), PA CareerLink Berks County and the Berks County Workforce Development Board (WDB) to provide the training. The training program, Rebuilding Reentrants and Reading (R3) will be comprised of 3 parts; evening classroom instruction at RMCTC, hands-on learning which will occur on site at HFHBC properties and an employment focused cognitive curriculum delivered by BCPS staff. This combination of best practices – classroom learning, hands-on experience, and cognitive interventions – is expected to improve employment outcomes for participants as well as reduce recidivism.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections applauds BCPS for its initiative and grant award,” said Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “The vast majority of all incarcerated individuals will return to their communities one day and successful reentry is paramount. This program will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”
The training program will serve over 150 individuals over the course of 24 months beginning in October 2017. The project outcomes of increasing employability, improving employment rates, and reducing recidivism will be further supported by case management and comprehensive job search and placement assistance. The Berks County Workforce Development Board and PA CareerLink Berks County will assist BCPS in the development of relationships with potential employers in the construction trades.
Dan Fogarty, Chief Operating Officer of the WDB stated, “While assisting Berks County residents who have been incarcerated to better reintegrate into our communities is the right thing to do, we at the Berks County WDB also understand that many of our local construction employers need talented workers now and into the future. In fact, the WDB has identified our local construction industry as a priority area of focus due to current and ongoing projected shortages of skilled workers. This project fits with our efforts to support the construction industry’s progress toward sustainable growth in employment and output.”
Peggy Kershner, Co-Executive Director of BCPS, is excited about the opportunity this grant will provide to many individuals with barriers to gainful employment. She said that “this training is not only an investment in the success of participants, but is also an investment in our community. It will allow returning citizens to give back to the community while obtaining marketable skills. BCPS and our partners in this initiative are committed to not only rebuilding lives but also rebuilding some of Reading’s most blighted neighborhoods.”
BCPS is a nonprofit social service agency that has served individuals in the criminal justice system and their families since 1975. They are the leading provider of reentry services in Berks County. BCPS workforce development programs are funded through the United Way of Berks County, the County of Berks, and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.