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Job Training for Justice-Involved Women
August 22, 2023
In our work toward strengthening economic security for women, the Michigan Women’s Commission (MWC) prioritizes financial freedom – actions to close gaps and increase access to income. From Michigan Reconnect’s tuition-free college to Registered Apprenticeship’s training programs to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive directive closing the wage gap for state employees, MWC support efforts that help more women along the path to fair pay and higher-wage jobs.
This includes justice-involved women. Over the past few years, Michigan has implemented a first-of-its-kind program that aims to give incarcerated women more access to hands-on education and employment training that can jumpstart their success and economic security upon release.
The Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) in Ypsilanti is the only prison for women in Michigan. In 2019, the Michigan Department of Corrections made a commitment to construct the first-ever in the nation Vocational Village for Women – a unique skilled trades training program housed within a therapeutic learning environment.
At the WHV Vocational Village, women can enroll in state and national certificate backed programs that will propel them into higher-paying and secure jobs when they leave the facility. With programming that is gender-responsive, trauma-informed and evidence-based, the WHV Vocational Village houses participating women together in the same unit. Mirroring a typical workday, the women train and work for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Participants earn state and national certifications in their trade, including a Certificate of Employability that helps them secure quality employment once released from WHV. The vocational trade programs include Carpentry, Food Technology, Robotics, Cosmetology, Forklift, 3D Printing, Truck Driving, and Horticulture. All of these programs complement each other to emulate real world interactions between businesses. For example, produce grown in the Horticulture program is sent to the Food Technology program for lessons on cooking with fresh produce. Participants also host an internal farmers market for WHV employees and cater events for participants and their families.
Employers who hire Vocational Village graduates from WHV can earn $1,200 to $9,600 in tax credits per employee. They can participate in facility job fairs and interview participants prior to their release.
Since opening in 2019, WHV’s Vocational Village employment rate has been over 70%, with 82 people graduating and less than 5% returning to WHV. Participants are positioned for post-incarceration success with in-demand careers that offer greater economic security and more financial freedom for justice-involved women and their families.