By Dameion Renault, Community Resources Manager
Sierra Conservation Center

In February 2015, Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) embarked on a mission to provide inmates with sustainable information, tools and practice in career development. After months of research into the employability needs of inmates at SCC, the New Professionals program was a pilot program that demanded a commitment of 10 months from any inmate interested in learning the “how” and “why” of becoming a career-minded professional. 

SCC teamed up with community business leader Dian Buckley-Altwies, CEO of Core Performance Concepts (CPC), to provide a curriculum filled with information any inmate can use to understand, not just the tools needed to become a professional, but also what has led them to this point in their lives. 

In addition, the inmates learn how to develop their neuro pathways and habits to conform to the new information, as well as how to sustain their “new brain,” according to organizers.  

New Professionals is broken up into several sections, beginning with brain development, choice theories, relapse management and human development, well before getting into resume and portfolio building.  SCC takes into account the knowledge and tools used in today’s labor market, using the needs of present businesses to create a portfolio.

To have the opportunity for a position in New Professionals, inmates must request an interview, sit for a 30-minute interview with multiple questions about their past, their willingness to do the work, and their genuineness in learning and growing. 

Once inmates have completed weekly quizzes and assignments in the aforementioned areas, an Effective Project Management curriculum provided by CPC, a provider for the Project Management Institute, is started. 

Inmates completing the 16 weeks of Effective Project Management (EPM) receive a Certificate of Training from CPC which is added to their resumes.  Upon completion of the EPM curriculum, all “New Professionals” take on a real project from another non-profit or government community organization for six weeks to practice the education received in EPM and add experience to their portfolios. 

The inmates who complete all 10 months of the New Professionals program receive a Certificate of Completion from SCC for the program, but more importantly, leave with an understanding of seeing their employment and personal future in a career as opposed to a job or day-to-day minded mentality.

“It’s easy to get a job, but to hold a career and build a future takes work,” said inmate Hazen, a New Professional who assisted SCC’s Community Resources Manager with note taking, document creation, assignment tracking, and more.

For 10 months, inmates were made accountable to themselves and their team, only allowed to have one excused absence, all assignments to be completed before moving on to the next section, and working as a team. Understanding project management, having an education in it, and backing up one’s education with experience is a skill and wisdom all businesses desire.  Understanding career paths is crucial for inmates leaving the system and can be a game changer for combating recidivism, according to organizers.