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CNC Re-Entry Program Celebrates Fourth Completion Ceremony

 

June 6, 2016  

A unique program to provide entry-level training in computer numerical control (CNC) machining for incarcerated individuals or those on probation/parole has been held at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Downtown Milwaukee Campus since early 2015. Students have been transported to and from correctional centers to the campus to allow them hands-on training.

Four groups have completed the training, including one group of females. One cohort consisted of students who were all on probation or parole. The other groups started with students who were currently incarcerated, but some were paroled during their 14-week training sessions. Each student spends 448 hours in training.

The program is funded by a $723,000 State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development grant, supplemented by $23,000 from the House of Corrections. The state funds part of the Wisconsin Fast Forward training grant awarded to MATC to promote training in high-demand fields. The CNC course funding has been used specifically to provide skilled training for people who have been imprisoned. The hope is to reduce recidivism by offering ex-offenders the training to pursue a job with a family-supporting wage.

Dorothy Walker, interim dean of MATC’s School of Technical and Applied Sciences, explained, “Our goal is to transform people’s lives and this is a group where we can see transformation taking place.” She said that she hoped students would gain employment in CNC jobs and that some would continue their education at MATC. Most recent data shows that 25 of the 47 students are currently employed, many of them in machining jobs. Three also are already enrolled or have graduated from MATC technical diploma programs following the CNC certificate training.

The last group began training on May 23. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is trying to obtain funding to add more sessions in the future.

Fourteen male students from the Felmers O. Cheney and Marshall Sherrer correctional centers received their certificates of completion at a ceremony April 29. Several students spoke at the event.

Antoine Crittenden thanked his classmates for their support and spoke about his personal journey. He said, “I could move anywhere in this world. But if I don’t change my thinking, I’ll get the same results. But if I change my thinking, better things will happen. It’s not where I’m at. It’s who I am.”

In addition to the students, their families and MATC staff, several State of Wisconsin officials attended the ceremony. Wisconsin Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was the keynote speaker. Ray Allen, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, and Jon Litscher, secretary of the Department of Corrections, also attended.

Kleefisch said there have been questions from “both sides of the aisle” about whether it is worth the time and funding to run this sort of re-entry program. “This was worth it,” she said. “You are worth it. Your past will never determine your future.”  

Video story about completion ceremony available at this link