Johnson County Community College recently joined two local organizations — Johnson County Department of Corrections and the nonprofit NCircle Inc. — to provide job training to help break the cycle of incarceration. The result? A collaborative partnership making a positive impact in the community.
Teamwork and pooled resources
The three organizations work in tandem to help clients in the Corrections system improve their chances for success after release. The Department of Corrections assists with job placement; Johnson County Community College provides skills training in high-demand fields; and NCircle coordinates the program and serves as a bridge between Corrections and JCCC.
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.
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 to help connect students with resources for any challenges they may be facing. Linda Kozacek was a volunteer Essential Skills instructor and NCircle board member prior to her role as transition coach.
“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 builds relationships and rapport while teaching career exploration and StrengthsFinder tools in her clients’ Essential Skills classes. Upon graduation, 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.
Recent statistics speak to the power of this partnership. Clients who complete the program have a 17% revocation rate after 90 days, while those who don’t have a 40% revocation rate.
Laying the groundwork for success
Linda first met program participant Sanford Willis in 2019. Sanford currently operates a local 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 reconnected with Linda for assistance.
Although Sanford was no longer part of the program, both NCircle and Johnson County Corrections led him to a certification opportunity through Kansas City Kansas Community College. NCircle even sponsored a $250 scholarship for Sanford’s tuition.
Upon earning his certification, Sanford’s business has taken off, and his success is building momentum. He now serves on the advisory council for NCircle, and his advice to entrepreneurs is to always keep learning.