Former inmates earn welding certification through DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office training program

By way of DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office’s Vocational Careers for Inmate Rehabilitation Program, 13 former DeKalb County inmates now have new skills to use in the welding field. 

Launched in August 2019, the program trains and certifies inmates for careers in welding after they are released from jail and has a goal of redirecting inmates’ lives by offering them opportunities to learn those skills.

“Our collective goal was to facilitate the re-entry of ex-offenders into our community as persons who can function as working and productive citizens… [by] obtaining adequate income through meaningful long-term employment,” said DCSO Chief Deputy Randy Akies during a Dec.18 virtual recognition event. “…this is a major hurdle ex-offenders face when they’re transitioning from correctional facilities back into the community. This can be a defining factor in the decision to reoffend based on those challenges.” 

Three program participants spoke during the event, stating the program has had a positive impact on shaping their futures. 

“It’s given me a purpose. I feel like I have something to live for, something positive now and a good future to look forward to,” said Danielle Childs.

According to the American Welding Association, there continues to be a high demand for certified welders nationwide. An estimated 500,000 job openings are currently available nationwide for certified welders, according to DCSO.

Additionally, many companies that hire welders are willing to accept applications from ex-offenders.

Participant Jeremy Hopkins said the program has been a life-changing experience. 

“It opened up my eyes to the different possibilities,” he said. “I had never known too much of the [welding] field itself. I can tell you it definitely has sculpted the way I view the next 10 years of my life.”

The program, which on average takes about eight months to complete, is made possible through a partnership with Georgia Piedmont Technical College, the Technical College System of Georgia and WorkSource DeKalb.

“We’re so proud of what they’ve accomplished. We’re all about making sure that people have skills that will get them to work,” said Tavarez Holson, GPTC president. “…What better skills than to apply a welding certification. This is a very in-demand job field and very lucrative…They can provide for their families. They can demonstrate skills that they can add to the qualified talent pool.”

To date, the program has hosted three cohorts with a total of 28 participants at a cost of approximately $3,300 per inmate, funded through WorksSource DeKalb, according to information from DCSO.

The program was presented to inmates who had been to court, had been convicted, and were ordered to serve sentences of up to 24 months in DeKalb County Jail. Those who were interested received orientation to the program and went through a series of individual interviews by the program coordinator.

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