News & Updates

News & Updates

San Joaquin County Inmates Get Second Chance with Trades Training

A new and successful partnership in San Joaquin County is bringing the ValleyBuild program into the jail, where nearly 20 inmates have completed the introductory training in building and construction trades.

After two successful cohorts, and 19 graduates, ValleyBuild partners are looking forward to more training sessions at the jail honor farm that can help inmates launch stable, good-paying careers on the outside.

“I think a lot of the reason we do these programs is to give opportunities to people who wouldn’t otherwise have them, or people who have barriers of some kind,” said Tim Robertson, executive director of the San Joaquin Building Trades Council. “And what’s a tougher barrier to get past than being incarcerated and/or having a criminal record?”

The MC3 (Multi-Craft Core Curriculum) Apprenticeship Readiness Program training at the honor farm represents a new collaboration between the trades council, other ValleyBuild partners and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department. The idea formed in conversations between the council and sheriff’s officials, and those talks yielded the new opportunity for sentenced inmates at the county honor farm.

The first cohort, with 12 students, launched late last year and finished in January. The second cohort recently completed its work, with graduation ceremonies held in early April. Some graduates who have completed their sentences now are interviewing or preparing to start jobs.

The weeks-long training class stands as an introduction to various aspects of construction including math, safety and individual trades like electrical and sheet metal. Classes at the jail are open to sentenced honor farm inmates — generally those who are close to completing their sentences – who also meet typical training requirements such as holding a GED or high school diploma and passing drug tests.

Sheriff’s department officials such as Capt. Kimberly De La Cruz have been extremely supportive of the program, Robertson said. The department also made an investment by purchasing tools – drills, hammers and table saws, for example – necessary for the class.

Hortencia Salcedo, inmate programs director, said the training can offer a good path for inmates when they are released. “Once they have the experience and the confidence that they can do something like this, it might help them make better choices,” she said.

Kevin Cassinelli, a correctional officer who works with the program, said students in the training helped retrofit an unused barracks to serve as a classroom. They applied the skills they learned – in electrical and drywall, for example – to complete the work; the classroom also will be used for other programs.

“They invested a lot in both capital and labor and money to make it happen,” Robertson said of the department. “We have had really good partners.”

Cassinelli said there has been a good response both from correctional officers and inmates. “It works out really well with all of us working together,” he said.

The training has spurred interest in other areas, he said, such as GED classes that are an eligibility requirement. Of the apprenticeship readiness training program, he said, “I have a stack of papers of individuals who want to get into this class.”

Officials are looking at late summer for the next class at the honor farm.

ValleyBuild is a state grant-funded partnership operating in a 14-county region within the Central Valley. ValleyBuild brings together workforce development boards, building trades councils and other partners to train men and women for construction-related jobs.