Workforce Spotlight

Berks Connections/Pretrial Services Offer Successful Program to Help Reentrants Obtain Employment in the Construction Trades

August 12, 2020

Berks Connections/Pretrial Services has been in the Life Improvement Business serving the criminal justice population in Berks County for close to 45 years.  A lack of job training and opportunities for stable employment at a living wage present significant barriers to our clients’ reentry success. Lack of employment is not only a quality of life issue, but can also have serious implications on an individual’s likelihood to recidivate.

 

BCPS has operated Rebuilding Reentrants and Reading (R3) since 2017. This registered pre-apprenticeship program offers an opportunity for individuals with a criminal history to acquire skills in the construction trades that lead to gainful employment, and assist with the renovation of some of the City of Reading’s blighted neighborhoods. The program is funded through the County of Berks and a grant from the Berks County Workforce Development Board.

 

BCPS partners with Habitat for Humanity Berks County (HFHBC) and the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center (RMCTC) to provide the three components of the training; career and technical education at RMCTC, hands-on learning on site at HFHBC properties and an employment focused cognitive curriculum delivered by BCPS staff. BCPS developed this innovative model, which is based on best practices of reentry programming and adult career and technical education. The Berks County Workforce Development Board has identified the construction trades as a high priority sector that provides employment opportunities at family sustaining wages. The combination of best practices - classroom learning, hands-on experience, and cognitive interventions – not only improves employment outcomes for participants, it significantly reduces recidivism as well. 157 individuals completed R3 since October 2017, 74 percent of the graduates are maintaining stable employment, and 93 percent have not recidivated!

 

BCPS provides case management, mentoring and support for one year following graduation. The comprehensive case management includes financial literacy and coaching as well as job search, placement and retention support. Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Keystone Chapter is the RA sponsor for this pre-apprenticeship program. R3 graduates are granted six months credit toward one of ABC’s seven apprenticeship programs. R3 is the only registered pre-apprenticeship program in Pennsylvania that is exclusively serving reentrants!

 

R3 provides opportunities for some of Reading’s most marginalized residents to not only improve their lives and that of their families, but to also have a profound and visible impact on a blighted neighborhood - literally rebuilding lives and a neighborhood simultaneously.

 

For more information about R3 or any BCPS program, please visit our website at www.berksconnections.org or contact Peggy Kershner at pkershner@bcpsreentry.org or 484-260-3860.