Computer Certification Increases Inmates' Post-Release Potential
By Kurt Eisele-Dyrli
Readying for a job market where technological literacy is increasingly vital can be challenging for anyone. That's why CCA is helping inmates gain critical computer and software skills prior to being released and returning to their communities.
The Microsoft Office Specialists (MOS) certification – which is now available to inmates at 40 CCA facilities – is the only globally recognized credential for validating desktop computer skills and comes directly from Microsoft. Last year, CCA facilities delivered 380 MOS certification exams, up from 292 total Certiport exams in 2008.
"Ninety-five percent of businesses today use Microsoft as their platform and the MOS certification is a validation of Microsoft skills to potential employers," says Scott Stoddart, national director, Government & Workforce at Certiport, Inc., the company that oversees the testing process. Certiport is the world leader in standards-based certification solutions that enable personal and professional advancement through global portable and industry recognized credentials.
Each CCA facility has a computer lab that can be used as a testing site. Unlike other programs, however, bringing Certiport testing to offenders is a facility-driven initiative, which requires collaboration across multiple departments at each CCA correctional center. Offenders prepare for the MOS certification test through a self-paced class 20 hours each week. Upon completing the book and obtaining instructor approval, offenders take a pre-test. After passing the pre-test, students are eligible to take the certification exam. Once earned, certifications, in many cases, may substitute up to 12 hours of college credits.
"Anyone can self-report their computer skills, but this certificate verifies transferable skills for any occupation," says Tom Shaw, CCA director, Education Services.
"This certification could benefit anyone who's trying to get a job that requires computer skills," adds Michelle Cotter, CCA manager, Educational Services. "It will give ex-offenders a tremendous advantage when they're interviewing for jobs."
MOS-certified individuals can apply their skills as accountants, secretaries, receptionists and other business occupations.
"I've had inmates who were released with the certification, and they write back and tell me how useful it is in applying basic computer skills," says Lamarcus Yates, vocational instructor at West Tennessee Detention Facility, where17 students have earned their certifications. "The certification gives the individual confidence, and it gives employers confidence that the person can actually do the job."
Additionally, employers can view candidates' exam history and take a closer look at their competencies.
"An individual coming out of prison has a digital transcript that shows potential employers the certifications they possess," Stoddart explains. ""They can access it via the internet through their personal digital transcripts page on the Certiport website and give employers permission to access it. An employer can click on each exam and see the skill set associated with that certification.""
Currently, about 350 correctional systems in the country use Certiport testing for offenders. Certiport exams are also used in governments, higher education institutions high schools and businesses around the world.
For more information about Certiport, visit www.certiport.com.