TRU program helps train Kamloops inmates

Some inmates of the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre (KRCC) now have more job options thanks to a Trades and Technology program at TRU. Since November, the university has been working with the KRCC to start a level one construction craft training program for inmates.

Through the program, six inmates have learned basic construction skills, taken courses like math and finished a hands-on assignment. The majority of the participants have actually worked on construction sites before, but lacked the certifications to back up their existing skill sets.

Heather Hamilton is TRU’s manager of industry and contract training. She worked to make the program a reality.

“We had discussions with [KRCC] – this fit, the duration, the length of the program fits best up there because the inmates are provincial inmates, so it’s two years less a day when they go through sentencing. It’s a very small window for training. This program fit the window we had,” Hamilton said.

Another person invested in this program is trades dean Lindsay Langill, who said that getting practical training to the inmates was something he focused on when developing the training.

“If we are going to make any change in their lives, my belief is that we have to do something that appeals to them and many of them gravitate to practical applications,” Langill said. According to Langill, helping the inmates find their passion could change their whole pathway and behaviour in a positive way.

Inmates are led through the seven-week program with class work totalling 30 hour per week, taught by TRU instructors.

“I believe in having an instructor who is very confident in their teaching and teaching manner,” Langill said. “Having an instructor who is very calm, a very understanding individual, knowing what he or she is doing is making all the difference in the world.”

The program has requirements set by KRCC that the inmates must meet to be considered for the courses. The inmate students must be non-violent offenders with a sentence that works with the program’s time frame. The six who successfully completed the program were between 20 and 30 years of age, but there is no age restriction.

This program allows graduates to go on to gain apprenticeships and work towards their Red Seal, a certification that shows a standard of excellence within the trades.

“We have given some contacts. Our school is having discussions with local industry to see if anyone can take them on. One student has been released. He is already making those contacts,” Hamilton said.

According to Hamilton, many of the students have never finished anything, so recognizing their success was important. TRU and KRCC put on a graduation ceremony to celebrate the completion and accomplishments made throughout this program. Both Langill and Hamilton emphasized that the inmate students are no different from any other student taking courses at the institution.

“Even [with] one success, we can call the program successful,” Hamilton said.

Although it’s unknown whether the inmate program will run again next year, TRU facilitators hope to see the program expand to heavy duty mechanics, welding, carpentry and metal fabrication. If it receives funding next year, the program will continue to give the inmates of KRCC the opportunity to learn and gain confidence to make a positive change for their future.