2019 AprilMay

Over the next decade millions of experienced manufacturing professionals will retire; further exascerbating the skills gap crisis currently facing the industry. To address this looming emergency, businesses, government and organizations like TMA are ramping up efforts to engage high school students, verterans, and career changers in order to try and steer them into lucrative careers in manufacturing. As those populations are being pursued, another potential source is getting more and more attention: the incarcerated. Without direction or preparation for careers outside of prison, 68 percent of the 1.5 million individuals in America’s prisons will be re- arrested within three years. An additional 9 percent will be back in prison within five years. This reality is not only dispiriting for inmates, it negatively affects their families, communities, and society as a whole, with over-burdened taxpayers yearly footing billions of dollars to maintain prison systems that are over-crowded due to recidivism. The good news is the system is changing. Last month, the Indiana Department of Correction in Madison, IN celebrated 44 female prisoners earning certifications from the American Welding Society, the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, or the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. Working with a local community college, over 150 women prisoners have successfully obtained certification in computing, manufacturing and other areas in the past year. “We have employers waiting” for students with those valued certifications, Warden Jan Davis told the Rushville Republican. “There is no stigma to having a criminal record … Skills are more important than a person’s past.” One by one, other states are following Indiana’s example. After instituting similar skills training programs for prisoners, Texas’ prison recidivism rate dropped dramatically. “In Texas we’ve changed a lot of laws and closed eight prisons,” Brooke Rollins, president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation told The Hill news site. “And the crime rate is down 31 percent over the last 10 years at a time when our population has exploded.” The Trump Administration took what was working in these states and included them in the First Step Act, which the President recently signed into law. “Two-thirds of the 650,000 people released from prison each year are arrested again within three PRISON REFORM: ESCAPING RECIDIVISM BY CLIMBING THE MANUFACTURING SKILLS LADDER TECHNOLOGY & MANUFACTURING ASSOCIATION 4