Ivy Tech offers welding certification to inmates

Photo provided

The latest welding graduates from Ivy Tech Community College - Columbus, in collaboration with Edinburgh Correctional Facility, are shown with Ivy Tech Chancellor (second from left) Steven Combs, including Christopher Sparks, (Combs), Jeremy Thompson, Kenton Myers, Mike Kelley, Justin Hastings, James Norris, Rhonda Jackson, Damion Floyd and Timo Muenzer.

Ivy Tech Community College – Columbus is continuing to help soon-to-be former inmates earn American Welding Society (AWS) certifications.

The Indiana Department of Correction has allocated $160,000 for a contract with the service area so that it can serve 50 students during the 2022-23 school year through five welding trainings with 10 participants each, said Rachel Roll, executive director of Career Coaching and Employer Connections at the local campus.

“And so what that looks like is we’ve got 10 justice-involved individuals that are at the Edinburgh Correctional Facility but they’re getting ready to be released,” she told the campus trustees at a recent board meeting. “They go through a vetting process. These are very motivated individuals.”

The school recently celebrated the latest cohort’s completion with a graduation ceremony.

The welding certification program is part of a statewide collaboration between Ivy Tech and the Department of Correction. The Columbus campus focuses on helping individuals from the Edinburgh Correctional Facility earn an AWS certification. Other programs are available at various Ivy Tech locations.

Ivy Tech’s partnership with the Department of Correction began in 2018 as a result of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Agenda, which focuses on creating a skilled workforce.

The local welding certification program is aimed at helping participants find gainful employment upon release.

“Welding is an exceptional pathway for released offenders, providing higher pay rates and stable employment upon re-entry,” the department said in a previous press release.

The local program provides participants with an AWS Gas Metal Arc Welding certification, said CCEC Program Manager Rhonda Jackson. The certification piece is 80 hours. Prior to that training, students take part in a 16-hour success skill class that includes “soul-searching” and setting goals.

To date, 147 men have enrolled in the program and 145 have completed it.

“We have a 97-plus percent certification rate,” said Jackson. “And we attribute that to quality, and that goes to our instructor, Mike Kelly, as well as the participants and their commitment to being successful. … Edinburgh staff selects them based on interest, based on their commitment to making positive changes in their life, and also their behavior while they reside at the Department of Correction.”

The program’s 16th cohort, made up of eight students, recently completed training and held a graduation ceremony.

Roll said that these ceremonies are always touching.

“It’s awesome to empower those justice-involved individuals and be a part of helping them and helping our communities be stronger,” she said.