ORLANDO, Fla. — A second batch of inmate students to take the new construction class offered by Valencia College at the Orange County Jail in Orlando graduated on June 3. The college covered the $2,510 cost per person for the first class, which finished in April, and the jail paid for this second class.
Throughout the last five weeks, 18 inmates incarcerated for crimes such as drugs, robbery and domestic violence spent time growing their skills in the workroom. Their final project involved building two, octagon-shaped wooden picnic tables with benches for the nearby Pathways Drop-In Center, a nonprofit that helps people with mental illness, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The construction class is based on a curriculum developed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, according to Valencia News. It gives inmate students three college credits and a national construction certification. A third class has yet to be scheduled, but the college could seek federal grants and local donors to continue financing it, Carolyn McMorran, Valencia College’s assistant vice president, told the Orlando Sentinel.
Valencia College started the basic construction class this year after Skanska-Granite-Lane — the joint venture heading I-4 Ultimate Project, which brings construction opportunities to women and minority job candidates — expressed concern in 2015 about not finding enough workers to help build roads, infrastructure and building projects. In fact, the Associated General Contractors of America released a 2015 survey that revealed nearly 80 percent of construction businesses are having a difficult time finding qualified skilled labor.
The shortage of construction workers has led to an opportunity for inmate programming, and the joint venture has since hired some inmates upon release, reported the Orlando Sentinel. Goodwill Industries also taught the inmates how to write resumes and how to act during interviews.