Program Trains Virginia Offenders to Become Licensed Professiona - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Program Trains Virginia Offenders to Become Licensed Professionals

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RICHMOND, Va. - A new Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) program allows offenders to get certified to properly deal with wastewater.

Corrections officers say it's a way to train incarcerated individuals in an area of need for many Commonwealth communities and set them up for future employment as licensed professionals.

“Every community, large or small, has wastewater treatment needs,” explained Nottoway Correctional Center Treatment Plant Operator Robbie Jones. “There are many jobs available, and these jobs require increasingly stringent credentials. People don't realize how much it takes. A lot of science and math goes into wastewater operation.”

Only offenders considered low security risks may apply for and enter the program. Violent and sexual offenders are not eligible.

The department offers classroom and computer course work in order to train the offenders. To complete their apprenticeships, applicants must make it through an interview panel and a fact-finding conference, submit a variety of paperwork and document their hours. There are four licensing classifications, each with progressively more rigorous requirements.

According to VADOC officials, the new program is quite popular, and part of the draw is the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment. What most attracts people, though, is the promise of future job opportunities.

“With a professional license, these offenders have a much better chance of getting a job when they return to their community,” Jones said. “This is a catalyst, an incentive to get their GED if they don't have one and then get into the apprenticeship program. This gives them a goal, and when they get their professional license and get out, they can get a job.” A high school diploma or a GED is a prerequisite for entering the program.

Environmental Services Unit Director Tim Newton first imagined VADOC's Wastewater Apprenticeship Program as a way to help ex-offenders enter the growing field and become contributing members of their communities upon reentry.

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