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SALISBURY — In partnership with the Centralina Workforce Development Board, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has launched the Rebuild Your Future program to provide job training and guidance to individuals who identify their criminal record as a barrier to employment.

“More than 200 people have been reached since the program launched,” said Keri Allman, R3 Career Services at Rowan-Cabarrus. “We are getting the word out about available services for individuals who are justice-involved by meeting them where they are, including making presentations to area inmates. We also work to identify and collaborate with area businesses and connect them with individuals who are ready to advance in the workforce.”

ReBuild Your Future offers two sequences of specific job training, one leading to certification for work in light construction occupations and another to prepare students to obtain their Class B Commercial Driver’s License, which is often used in the construction field. Internships in the construction field are part of the program, and eligible students may receive scholarship and support services to provide assistance with challenges such as transportation.

The college hired three professional recruiters, Dennis Brown, Jessica Corum and Derek Wilson, to work as program advisors, lead community information sessions and provide guidance to employers.

“Our recruiters make this project distinctive and effective because of their specific expertise in assisting justice-involved, which they obtained through work and/or personal experience,” Allman said. “They have unique skills that allow them to offer assistance with a comprehensive understanding of the complex challenges this population faces.”

“This role is about connecting,” said Corum. “My goal is to connect with those who are experiencing barriers to employment but are ready for the next step, whether that’s going back to finish a GED or getting a certification that creates better employment opportunities. The biggest highlight for me is seeing those who are hungry for change being given opportunity.”

Former offenders represent a large pool of untapped talent that is often overlooked by both educational institutions and employers. Within Rowan and Cabarrus counties, there are more than 3,400 former offenders under supervised probation and many more who have criminal records. Studies show that former offenders who find work are three times less likely to return to prison.

“I have witnessed firsthand how the opportunity for education and gainful employment can change an individual’s life,” Wilson said. “Over 95 percent of incarcerated individuals return to their communities. It is through innovative programs like ReBuild Your Future that individuals can transition successfully back into their community with an education and skill set focused on a trade that is in high demand.”

The program is made possible by a $400,000, two-year grant from the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund, part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s N.C. Job Ready Initiative to address workforce challenges for underserved populations and develop talent for in-demand occupations. In February, Cooper formally announced that the Centralina Workforce Development Board, in partnership with Rowan-Cabarrus, would receive the grant for the ReBuild Your Future initiative.

In addition to the Centralina Workforce Development Board, the College is partnering with NCWorks Career Centers, law enforcement offices, community crisis assistance agencies and employers to help execute the program. Formal partnerships and processes also will be established to ensure that the program can continue even after the grant period has ended.

“Many individuals face barriers to employment because of a criminal background, but are willing and eager to find good jobs. At the same time, local employers are in need of trained workers,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “The innovative ReBuild Your Future program will link skilled, eligible workers with engaged employers, helping to close the skills gap and decrease the likelihood that former offenders will be reincarcerated.”

“This project will lead to transformational change,” said Craig Lamb, vice president of corporate and continuing education at Rowan-Cabarrus. “When people with criminal backgrounds can secure employment and provide for their families, we are able to improve their lives and our community as a whole.”

For more information about the ReBuild Your Future program, call 704-216-7276 or visit www.rccc.edu/rebuild. For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, call 704-216-RCCC (7222) or visit www.rccc.edu.

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