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Re-Entry Employment Specialist Program

Written by Sharla Bardin for 19th St. Magazine, January 2021

Moore Norman Technology Center offers a free workshop that can foster communication, cooperation and connection for people who work with justice-involved individuals.

The Re-Entry Employment Specialist Certification training is a three-day workshop that gives participants an opportunity to learn more about resources, organizations and programs in the community that can benefit people with a criminal background who are re-entering the workforce.

One of the benefits of the training is that participants learn about organizations that are working on behalf of justice-involved individuals.

“We become aware of each other and collaborate,” said Jared Williams, career connection specialist and a certified Re-Entry Employment Specialist.

Topics covered in the training include services that can be provided before people are released from prison, addressing barriers and how to help individuals obtain and retain employment.

The next workshop is scheduled for February, and Moore Norman Technology Center is the only place in the state to offer the training. The workshop was created by the National Institute of Corrections but is tailored to address needs that are specific to Oklahoma, Williams said.

Williams said the training is offered to anyone who works with the justice-involved population, whether as a professional, a volunteer or an employer or anyone who is interested in the field.

The workshop also includes guest speakers from agencies and organizations in the region. Last year, representatives from the Department of Corrections, library system, nonprofits and colleges were among those featured, Williams said.

“We make sure that every single one of our classes have a lot of different organizations represented.”

Williams said the training also can promote encouragement and motivation among advocates who are working toward the same goals.

“It’s always rejuvenating to be in a room full of people who share in the same passion as you.”

That support and sharing of ideas and practices were some of the highlights for Brittany Hussain, who participated in the training in November.

“It was really neat to be connected with people who serve the same population but in different facets,” said Hussain, employment navigator for TEEM at Diversion Hub.

TEEM stands for The Education and Employment Ministry, a nonprofit that aims to break cycles of incarceration and poverty through education, personal development and work readiness training, according to the organization’s website.

The Diversion Hub is a multi-agency network for Oklahoma County to assist justice-involved individuals, according to the network’s website.

Hussain registered for the training to enhance her skills and learn more about resources in the area. She said she gained valuable insight from other participants who shared ideas and best practices, as well as the information she received about other organizations that assist the justice-involved population.

“There were a lot of really good tools,” she said. “I think that is something that is going to help me really serve my clients better.”

Hussain said some of the reasons she works with the population are personal. She has family members who have been justice involved and has watched as some have succeeded, while others have had a harder time. She sees her work as a way to offer support to those re-entering society.

“I can be a part of that journey that instills some hope in their lives … I just feel so fortunate to be able to encourage people,” she said.

Hussain said she was impressed with the Re-Entry Employment Specialist Certification training, the facilitators and the presenters. She encourages others to attend and said she believes the information presented may help people better understand the justice-involved population and serve as motivation for individuals and groups to “come together as a community to help these individuals succeed.”

For more information about the workshop, visit www.mntc.edu/reentry.