Danville Correctional Center’s new technology program helps fill employment gap

Danville, IL (WCIA) — A new program at the Danville Correctional Center (DCC) is introducing some inmates to theory, book work and lots of hands-on learning.

It’s part of a new field called “mechatronics.” It combines the skills required to work on machinery.

Prisoners in the correctional center belong to the new class. This is the first case in Illinois.

The program also helps people find jobs. Many at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and Danville Area Community College (DACC) say gaining hands-on experience now will open doors later in their careers.

DACC President Stephen Nacco said he knew there was a lot of demand in the manufacturing sector. He believes this new class will inspire prisoners to reach their potential.

“These students will have talents that our region sorely needs,” Nacco said.

DACC conducts many vocational courses in correctional centers. Instructor Shane Moncrief is teaching the newest course on their roster.

“It’s going to be maintenance and automation mechanics, or the mechanical industry,” Moncrief said. “Basically, we’re going to teach students how to work on an automated production line, how to work on a CNC machine.”

He teaches 11 prisoners every day. Thomas Strongblad was one of them. He said he signed up to make a difference.

“I thought it would be nice to understand some of the things we’re learning, like windmills,” Stromblad said. “Maybe it’s a way for me to give back to the community and get out there and create some green for my family and people in my area.”

The experience they gain now will help fill open positions later. DuWayne Owens, IDOC career coordinator, said companies are proactively seeking to recruit.

“We know that once they leave, employers want the people we have,” Owens said.

He feels that need will never go away.

“That’s what’s happening in today’s society, high-end, high-tech stuff,” Owens added.

Stromblad said without the class, he wouldn’t have had a chance.

Moncrief says it’s changing lives.

“I can’t wait to see these people pass this class and be able to start living; be able to work and be able to enjoy what they do,” he said.

At the end of 150 lessons, students will receive a certificate in Mechatronics from DACC. They will also earn a certificate from Scientific Management Techniques, Inc. (SMT), an international training institution in the field of mechatronics.

DACC also plans to add CDL and advanced technical courses in the future, Nacco said.

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