Connections Work has operated Rebuilding Reentrants and Reading (R3) since 2017. This registered pre-apprenticeship program offers an opportunity for individuals with a criminal history to acquire skills in the construction trades that lead to gainful employment. The Berks County Workforce Development Board has identified the construction trades as a high-priority sector that provides employment opportunities at family-sustaining wages.
Connections Work partners with Habitat for Humanity Berks County (HFHBC), the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center (RMCTC), the Berks Career and Technology Center(BCTC), and the GoggleWorks Center for the arts to provide the three components of the training; career and technical education at RMCTC and BCTC, hands-on learning on-site at HFHBC properties and the GoggleWorks, and an employment-focused cognitive curriculum delivered by Connections Work staff. Connections Work developed this innovative model which is based on best practices of reentry programming and adult career and technical education.
The combination of best practices - classroom learning, hands-on experience, and cognitive interventions – not only improves employment outcomes for participants, it significantly reduces recidivism as well. 208 individuals completed R3 between October 2017 and December 2021. 59% of the R3 graduates are maintaining stable employment and 92% have not recidivated! Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, stable employment for the R3 graduate was about 70%. Connections Work provides case management, mentoring, and support for one year following graduation. The comprehensive case management includes financial literacy and coaching as well as job search, placement, and retention support.
Both Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., (ABC) Keystone Chapter and Eastern PA Chapter, and Berks Career and Technology Center (BCTC). are the RA sponsor Program Affiliates for our registered pre-apprenticeship program. R3 graduates are eligible for credit up to 72 hours of Related Theory Learning (RTL).
For more information on R3, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 484-260-3860.
How it started....
Connections Work was one of 14 recipients nationwide and the only organization in PA to be awarded a U.S. Department of Labor Reentry Projects grant in 2017. The grant totaling $1,237,737 was used to fund this comprehensive training program in the construction trades for returning citizens involved in their workforce development programs - providing hope and opportunity to many individuals with barriers to gainful employment. Connections Work partnered with the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center (RMCTC), Habitat for Humanity Berks County (HFHBC), PA CareerLink Berks County and the Berks County Workforce Development Board (WDB) to provide the training.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections applauds Connections Work for its initiative and grant award,” said Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “The vast majority of all incarcerated individuals will return to their communities one day and successful reentry is paramount. This program will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”
The project outcomes of increasing employability, improving employment rates, and reducing recidivism are further supported by case management, mentoring, and comprehensive job search and placement assistance. The Berks County Workforce Development Board and PA CareerLink Berks County assisted Connections Work in the development of relationships with employers in the construction trades. Dan Fogarty, Chief Operating Officer of the Workforce Development Board (WDB) stated, “While assisting Berks County residents who have been incarcerated to better reintegrate into our communities is the right thing to do, we at the Berks County WDB also understand that many of our local construction employers need talented workers now and into the future. In fact, the WDB has identified our local construction industry as a priority area of focus due to current and ongoing projected shortages of skilled workers. This project fits with our efforts to support the construction industry’s progress toward sustainable growth in employment and output.”
This training is not only an investment in the success of participants, but is also an investment in our community. R3 allows returning citizens to give back to the community while obtaining marketable skills. Connections Work and our partners in this initiative are committed to not only rebuilding lives, but also rebuilding some of Reading’s most blighted neighborhoods.