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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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City jail inmates certified
Group of eight earn work-ready certifications
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Six inmates in the Martinsville City jail Annex received National Career Readiness Certifications on July 2 after taking assessment tests offered in the jail. Van Drewery of Patrick Henry Community College (left) and Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper (third from left) stand with Certification recipients (from left) Maurice McLaughlin, bronze; Donavon A. Niblett, silver; Gregory Hampton, bronze; Brandon Crockett, gold; Robert Bailey, gold; and Larry Oliver, bronze. (Contributed photo)
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Eight Martinsville jail inmates have been awarded National Career Readiness Certificates (CRC), and Sheriff Steve Draper said he hopes they are the first of many to do so.

The eight inmates were presented with the certifications July 2 by Patrick Henry Community College, Draper said. PHCC offers career readiness assessments as part of its professional development program, but he said the jail setting is unique for the program, which was initiated in the spring.

“I think I’m probably the first jail in the commonwealth to award them in the jail,” he said.

The city allows inmates to take GED courses in the building’s visitation rooms, and people who took the career readiness assessment also used the jail’s visitation facilities, he added.

The CRC program assesses workers’ skills in Reading for Information, Applied Math and Locating Information, according to the PHCC website. Certification levels are based on test scores, with bronze, silver and gold certifications awarded to those who pass.

Inmates who received certifications were Maurice McLaughlin, bronze; Donavon A. Niblett, silver; Gregory Hampton, bronze; Brandon Crockett, gold; Robert Bailey, gold; Larry Oliver, bronze; Felicia Turnage (bronze) and William E. Spruil (silver).

Van Drewery is adjunct faculty at PHCC and serves as corrections coordinator for the college. He said the higher the level of certification, the more qualified someone is.

A bronze certification means someone is qualified to do about 30 percent of the jobs in the area, silver means about 65 percent, and a gold certificate means a person “may be able to do 80-90 percent of jobs that are available,” Drewery said.

Furthermore, if someone isn’t satisfied with a silver or bronze, they can go back and be re-tested to improve their score, he added.

Drewery said about 21 people participated in the program in the jail. “Even if they may not have received a certificate, they got a letter explaining their scores” and what they need to work on, he added.

“I’ve already heard from several inmates asking if we’re going to do it again,” said Drewery, who also implements PHCC’s GED program.

Both Drewery and Draper indicated they hope the program soon will be available to another group of inmates. “Probably when the college and myself and the continuing education department and sheriff’s office can schedule it,” another assessment will be held, Drewery said.

Like the GED, Draper said the certifications are crucial to any job seeker, but especially so in the case of inmates.

“They have the criminal record against them, (they) don’t have a job,” he said. “This gives them several things they grade (their skills) on. It’s no easy task,”

Skill assessment and certification is only one benefit of taking the CRC assessment for an inmate, Drewery said.

“It does a number of things,” he said. “It lets employers know the person isn’t just sitting back hoping to find a job without being proactive.”

It also lets employers “know they are aware of what the community or college has to offer” in terms of education, Drewery added. “It helps them identify what their weaknesses may be so they can enroll in classes” to make them more qualified for jobs.

Since inmates already have to overcome the stigma of having been incarcerated, Draper said programs such as the CRC and GED classes help put people on an equal footing with other job seekers when they are released.

“Those that have a high school diploma or GED and then put (a CRC) on top of it,” he said, “it gives them a better opportunity” to compete for work.

Drewery stressed that the CRC program is open to anyone in the community, and an increasing number of employers are looking for certifications among applicants.

The cost of the assessment is $45. Grant funds covered the inmates’ costs.

For more information on the CRC program at PHCC, call 656-0342.


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