A task force of The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville has been working on creating a job training program for persons transitioning from incarceration. Here is an update on the program, in the form of some Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: How did the idea for this project originate?
A: During the several “Days of Creation” at the end of our strategic planning process, this was an idea that received a great deal of congregational support.
Q: Why is training in the culinary arts? Why not other employment areas?
A: There is a critical shortage of workers in the food service sector in our county. It’s also an area where we have access to resources, such as a commercial kitchen, teachers from Mercer County Community College, and local restaurants willing to help in the training. The LJTP has not ruled out job training in other areas if (when!) we are successful with our initial program.
Q: Where and when will the job training take place?
A: The LJTP is in the process of making an agreement with First Presbyterian Church of Trenton to use their commercial kitchen. We are not using ours due to its proximity to the preschool. Other program times may occur here at PCOL in the afternoon, when the children are not here. Although the group is finalizing the curriculum they anticipate approximately two training days per week.
Q: What will the training consist of?
A: The program entails three main components: culinary skills, life-skills, and apprenticeships in local restaurants. Each participant will also receive training to pass the ServeSafe safe food handling certification, which is a valuable credential for receiving a restaurant job.
Q: How many trainees, and how will they have a means to live?
A: We will begin our initial training period of approximately four months with 4-6 trainees, to establish proof of concept and to gain a “track record.” The schedule for the training is designed to allow participants to get additional experience through paid employment. The group is also considering the granting of a small stipend for trainee living expenses, and for a bus pass.
Q: How will the participants be selected?
A: The group is working with several experienced partners, such as the New Jersey Association on Corrections and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of New Jersey, to steer applicants toward the program. Trainees will fill out applications and there will be a selection process designed to select applicants who have the most promise of succeeding in the program, especially for the initial phase.
Q: When will the program begin?
A: The group has set a September 15 date to start the training program.
Q: How is the program funded?
A: Session granted funding from the Lower Fund, whose guidelines state that funds are to be used to “help fulfill individual, local and global needs of humanity which may not otherwise be fully met through established channels…” and is meant for “innovative and non-conventional uses.” The group hired a consultant, Michelle Cash, to get the program to the “starting line.” The group has also applied for a $40,000 grant from the Synod of the Northeast.
Q: How can church and community members help?
A: The group will be seeking help in a variety of roles, especially people to serve as mentors to the trainees.
Got other questions? Please email Michelle Cash, program consultant, at mcash@communitywellnj.org.