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April 15, 2021

JCCC joins partnership to provide job training, help break the cycle of incarceration.

“Joblessness is the single most important predictor of recidivism.” — The Trone Center for Justice and Equality, Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company

There’s more than one way to help someone turn their life around. To give a hand up to incarcerated citizens, three local organizations — Johnson County Department of Corrections, JCCC and NCircle — have pooled resources.

The result: a collaborative partnership making a positive impact on its clients and our community.

The three organizations work in tandem to help clients in the Corrections system improve their chances for success after release from supervision. Community Corrections assists with job placement. Johnson County Community College provides skills training in a variety of high-demand fields. NCircle, a local nonprofit, coordinates the program and serves as a bridge between Corrections and the College.

NCircle refers to its training program as the College of Trades, with classes offered by JCCC, Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC) and other volunteers.

The goal: Encourage clients to reach their greatest potential upon release.

Clients can choose from a variety of skill paths, including welding, construction, foodservice and information technology. An Essential Skills program taught by NCircle helps develop necessary soft skills for the workplace. Open communication between instructors, mentors, Corrections staff and JCCC transition coaches is crucial.

The outcome: Clients make progress and barriers are broken.

Foundation to a Better Tomorrow

To cover the costs of training, the JCCC Foundation established the Better Tomorrow Fund. The Foundation and NCircle also funded the salary for a transition coach. And they soon found the perfect person for the role, Linda Kozacek.

Linda was a volunteer Essential Skills instructor and a board member at NCircle. She now connects students with resources that help with challenges they may be facing.

“Our goal is to help our clients connect to resources, leading to good paying jobs that will help them meet their long-term life goals as successful members of the community,” she says.

Linda is embedded in her clients’ weekly Essential Skills classes, where she builds relationships and rapport and teaches mini-lessons on career exploration and StrengthsFinder tools. This becomes a natural connection upon graduation when she refers them to future training, job opportunities and community resources that include basic needs and housing options.

“I believe the connections clients establish ultimately make them successful,” she says.

Stats Point to Progress

Recent statistics speak to the power of this partnership. Clients who complete the program have a 17% revocation rate after 90 days. Those who don’t have a 40% revocation rate.

Laying the Groundwork for Sanford’s Success

Linda first met Sanford Willis in 2019. When she arrived at JCCC, they reconnected over email about various updates and his post-program goals.

Sanford operates a hardwood flooring company, and his business was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. He decided to supplement his income by earning a forklift certification, and reached out to Linda to see if she could help.

Linda found a few openings in a program offered through KCKCC. Although Sanford was no longer part of the program, both NCircle and Johnson County Corrections felt this was a perfect fit for him. NCircle even sponsored a $250 scholarship for Sanford’s tuition.

All of the pieces came together in a short time and Sanford successfully completed the training. Since then, his business has taken off.

Scaling Up!

Sanford’s success is building momentum. He now serves on the advisory council for NCircle. He is also part of ScaleUP!, a cohort that receives coaching, perspective and connections in order to create new jobs, open new locations and develop resilience for the future.

His advice to entrepreneurs is to always keep learning. “Know the business side of your operation,” he said. “Keep track of cash flow, customer acquisition cost and learn the formula involved with properly allocating revenue. Compartmentalize these categories and most importantly, focus on establishing equity in your business.”

Fund a Better Tomorrow!

Make a difference in your community. Help students like Sanford reach their greatest potential and donate to the JCCC Foundation Better Tomorrow Fund. For many, tomorrow starts today!