Skilling Up for a Second Chance: Training and certifying returning citizens in skilled trades

February 3, 2022

EDCUtah would like to highlight a source of motivated talent in these tight labor-market times. Here’s a write-up from the Utah Department of Corrections. In addition, we believe this program supports aspirations of the "Belong in Utah' program. Read further to learn about the opportunity as well as possible tax credits.

"These individuals have paid their debt to society and giving them the skills to contribute to the workforce and be productive members of our community post incarceration is laudable." - Theresa A. Foxley, president and CEO, Economic Development Corporation of Utah


Career and Technical Education Certification Programs

Of the roughly 5,000 incarcerated individuals throughout the state, about 90% will return to society. By training and certifying returning citizens in skilled trades, career and technical education programs return citizens to society with more employable skills than when they entered our facilities while also providing the community with a highly skilled and motivated workforce. In today’s tight labor market, these programs can help employers find new talent.

To prepare returning citizens with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully reenter the local workforce, Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) provides career and technical education (CTE) certifications to returning citizens throughout the state. 

CTE programs at UDC’s Draper facility and new Salt Lake County facility (scheduled to open Summer 2022) are provided through a partnership with Davis Technical College. These programs offer the same accreditation and industry recognized certifications as on-campus programs. CTE programs offered include:

  • Automotive
  • Machining
  • Welding
  • Business Technology
  • Culinary Arts

Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) located in Gunnison partners with Snow College to provide career and technical training certification programs to returning citizens. Construction Management and Culinary Arts are the two programs offered at this facility. 

Uintah Basin Technical College works within Duchesne County Jail to provide returning citizens with a career and technical training certification program in Building Trades. 

Volume of Graduates Available for Hire

Students eligible to participate in vocational training programs must be within five years of release and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Since the beginning of 2020, 82 students have graduated from CTE programs at UDC’s Draper facility. This is a lower number than average due to Covid-19. Between 2013 and 2019 CTE programs at this facility have averaged 64 graduates per year. The average number of graduates per program per year from 2013 to 2019 are displayed below: 

  • Automotive - 10
  • Machining - 5
  • Welding - 10
  • Business Technology - 29
  • Culinary Arts - 10

The Construction Management CTE certification program at CUCF has an average of 13 graduates per year. The Culinary Arts program at CUCF averages 24 graduates per year.

In 2021, 25 students graduated from the Building Trades CTE certification program at Duchesne County Jail.

Potential Program Additions

To best serve returning citizens, UDC understands the importance of remaining adaptive to local labor market trends. Based on labor market data throughout the state, the implementation of three new CTE programs are being highly considered. These programs which are recommended to be offered to both male and female returning citizens include:

  • CDL
  • Computer Programming
  • Automation and Robotics

How to Find Candidates and Other Ways to Support Programs

The easiest ways to connect returning citizens to jobs are through our job board and job placement services at Davis Tech.

Another way employers can support these programs include donations of usable equipment. Additionally, guest speakers and potential employers are always welcome to tour the programs and make connections with students. 

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. Individuals hired within one year of being convicted of a felony or being released from prison from the felony are eligible employees. Employers of all sizes are eligible. WOTC is equal to 40% of up to $6,000 of wages paid to certified employees (25% for employees who work less than 400 hours). More information on WOTC can be found here.

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In addition to the CTE program, the State recently implemented the Clean Slate law. The state has begun automatically expunging the old criminal records of individuals who have remained crime-free. This allows thousands of willing, eligible workers to join the employment ranks. Anyone with a record can find out if they qualify. There is no cost associated with automatic record expungement and Clean Slate Utah’s peer expungement navigators are available to help.