The OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Centers) Training Department plays a critical role in taking students “…from wherever [they are] to the point where [they] can perform effectively on a desirable and good paying job” (Riddick, 1971, p. 105). In addition to teaching students how to perform the tasks needed to search for and gain employment, instructors demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural and emotional needs that students bring to the learning environment. Imparting knowledge is only one part of the equation; instructors serve as positive role models for students, modeling the professional behavior that is to be seen in an OIC graduate by introducing learners to workplace practices and norms to which they have not previously been exposed.
It is against this backdrop that the content delivered through the OIC training department has been informed. The material has been designed for adults and is highly interactive, with opportunities to participate in case studies, role plays and group work, to contextualize the content with which learners interact.
Searching for employment is a daunting task for jobseekers who often do not have the knowledge or skills to navigate the seemingly complex terrain consisting of resumes, cover letters, application forms and the ability to interview effectively. This experience is even more challenging for people re-entering society after a period of incarceration, who are characterized by a number of factors that act as barriers to employment. These frequently include lower levels of literacy; limited, sporadic or no experience of legal employment; weak ties to family or community; or a history of mental illness and substance abuse (Bellotti, Deer, Berk, & Paxton, 2011, p. 1).
While many who join OIC programs cannot be considered traditional students, their experiences will be positive, uplifting and life changing. Instructors facilitate an enriching learning environment by remaining true to the founding principles of OIC and by remembering “…that man in his infinite variety should be treated with respect – his dignity is not to be violated because of his appearance, personal history or present circumstances” (Reddick, 1971, p. 104).
Bellotti, J., Deer, M., Berk, J., & Paxton, N. (2011). Examining a new model for prisoner
re-entry services: The evaluation of beneficiary choice. MATHEMATICA POLICY RESEARCH, INC.
Kethineni, S., & Falcone, D. (2007). Employment and ex-offenders in the United States: Effects of legal and extra-legal factors.PROBATION JOURNAL, 54(1), 36-51.
Reddick, L. D. (1971). The Essence of OIC. Philadelphia, PA