Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $900,000)
In 2019, Rhode Island was one of nine (9) states awarded planning funds to its Department of Corrections (RIDOC) through the Lumina Foundation to expand education and workforce training programs for incarcerated and re-entering individuals. Bridge to Opportunity is directly aligned with the state planning report, ‘Equity and Opportunity: Expanding Education and Workforce Programs and Services at the RI Department of Corrections’ and will provide a seamless career pathway to the high-wage, in-demand construction industry.
Construction is one of Rhode Island’s fastest growing occupational groups, with a projected 10.9% workforce increase in the next 10 years. With limited barriers to entry, the construction industry will serve as a much-needed pathway to economic stability for underrepresented populations. Bridge to Opportunity will advance equity and inclusion within the construction industry by improving the policy and regulatory environment and identifying and addressing systemic barriers to employment for the reentry population.
Bridge to Opportunity will create a formalized reentry pathway from career readiness assessment and construction training pre-release to Registered Apprenticeship (RA) placement and retention post-release. Bridge to Opportunity will prioritize younger offenders who are more likely to recidivate; these young adult inmates are disproportionately represented in the targeted urban core communities, which comprise approximately two-thirds of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) population of Rhode Island. To ensure equity access, Bridge to Opportunity will be offered in four facilities (minimum, medium, maximum and women’s).
Bridge to Opportunity builds upon RIDOC’s existing relationship with community-based training provider, Building Futures and its partnerships with the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council (RIBCTC) and the North American Building Trades Union. Specifically, 120 hours of construction training will begin pre-release, with inmates receiving a nationally-recognized industry credential. Post release, program participants will transition to Building Futures’ community-based Pre-Apprenticeship program. Bridge to Opportunity graduates will be supported in entering RA in the trades with a starting wage of $17-$25/hour, which will increase to an average of $38/hour + benefits within 3-5 years.
The RI Reentry/Construction Workforce Partnership, comprised of RIDOC, Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Building Futures, RIBCTC, and Vantage Point, will serve as the Advisory Board for Bridge to Opportunity and will ensure collaboration, effective program implementation, and the achievement of performance outcomes. Bridge to Opportunity will incorporate national and local best practices in criminal justice reform and workforce development that will result in successful employment post-release, benefiting individuals, their families, and the Rhode Island economy.