The Huttonsville Correctional Center recently hosted its annual Re-entry Resource Fair as part of ongoing programming to help inmates successfully transition from incarceration to life back in their communities.
The event included a mock job fair, which allowed a small group of select inmates to practice job interviews with local volunteers.
"This year, prior to the larger resource fair event, we decided to give some of the individuals from our vocational training programs the opportunity to prepare and practice for job interviews," said Willis McCollam, HCC Education Department transitional skills teacher. "The selected inmates worked in pairs, with one interviewing and one observing, as they rotated through different interviewers who donated their time and expertise."
Kathy Skidmore and Emily Grandusky help inmates with job interviewing skills at Huttonsville Correctional Center.
Volunteer interviewers included: Jeff Barger, owner/manager of Talbott Frame Shop; Robbie Morris, executive director, Randolph County Development Authority; Max Armentrout, retired businessman and board member at Citizens Bank of West Virginia; Kathy Skidmore and Emily Grandusky, employment specialists, West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services; and Steve Belan, program director, Veterans Upward Bound, Davis and Elkins College. Other interviewers included HCC vocational instructors Rich Kisner and Hank Williams, and Jacob Green, executive director, Office of Institutional Education Programs, West Virginia Department of Education.
"Aside from the actual vocational skills training I have received, the mock interview training has been the most positive and productive experience I've had while being locked," said one inmate participant.
The broader Resource Fair was opened to the general inmate population and featured information from a variety of community resources. Organizations that attended or provided information included WorkForce West Virginia, West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services, Kanawha Institute of Social Research and Action, West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, Veterans Upward Bound, West Virginia Division of Veterans Assistance, West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Randolph County Family Resource Network, West Virginia Advocates, and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
Dr. Richard Kiley from Appalachian Community Health Center provided information about community-based mental health services available throughout West Virginia.
Matt Summers, Davis & Elkins College director of financial planning, answered questions about financial aid and related issues for inmates considering higher education opportunities.
"We really enjoyed the mock interviews and thought they were very helpful for inmates nearing release," said Kathy Skidmore from the Division of Rehabilitation Services. "The resource fair is always a great way to talk with inmates to explain our services and help guide them to a local DRS office."
"Today was a great day for our Vocational and Life Skills programs, as well as for the students who participated in today's activities. One of our goals for the year at Huttonsville School was to add a mock job fair to our yearly resource fair to further strengthen the employment track of our Transitions/Life Skills Programs," noted Ernie Gooding, HCC School principal. "We certainly feel like we did that today. Students who participated gained valuable 'soft skills' that will prepare them for job interviews after being released from prison. We had a strong turnout for both sessions, and would like to thank the members of the community for their attendance, participation and continued support of our programs."
HCC is the oldest and largest correctional facility in the state, housing approximately 1,100 inmates. It is one of the largest employers in Randolph County, with a staff of more than 300 employees.
There are many educational programs, vocational and academic, offered to inmates by the West Virginia Department of Education's Office of Institutional Education Programs. These classes give them an opportunity to engage in rehabilitation efforts during their incarceration. Inmates are able to attend classes in the Adult Basic Education Program to work toward attainment of a GED certificate. Vocational courses offered include mill and cabinet, auto mechanics, auto body, welding, and facilities maintenance.
Prison Industries operate the Braille Program and the furniture plant located at Huttonsville. Regular textbooks are transcribed into braille and distributed throughout the United States. The furniture plant refinishes and builds new furniture for various state agencies.