Dr. Sean Siebert (left), Crawford County Sheriff Darin Layman, Crawford County Presiding Commissioner Leo Sanders, Trish Rogers with the Missouri Job Center, Alan Galindo with Central Workforce Development Board, MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge and MRPC Board Chairman Larry Miskel pose with awards from the National Association of Development Organizations honoring the group for its efforts with the​​ Rehabilitation through Innovation program.

The National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) has recognized the Rehabilitation through Innovation program conducted in the Crawford County jail with its national innovation award. The program worked to bring entities and individuals together to tackle the workforce issue plaguing the counties in the Meramec Region and better prepare prospective workers for employment.

About two years ago, Meramec Community Enhancement Corporation (MCEC) and Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) approached Delta Regional Authority (DRA) with a proposal to assist its four DRA counties within the Meramec Region become Certified Work Ready Communities. By utilizing the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), certified communities are able to demonstrate a workforce with the education and foundational skills to succeed in the 21st Century.

In order to do this, each county needed to target three types of workforce: emerging, current and transitioning, and garner business support. The grant, which MCEC received, paid for costs associated with WorkKeys testing and proctoring as well as job profiling to businesses to see what skills were necessary for a given position.

Over the two-year timeframe, numerous high school and college students were tested; WorkKeys information was shared with employers, high school counselors as well as the workforce in general. One business participated in the job profiling, and a temporary testing site, complete with a proctor, was established to better accommodate those wanting to test.

By early May 2017, all counties but Crawford County were certified work ready. Traditional methods of outreach—advertising, flyers, Facebook posts and news articles– were not proving effective in reaching the transitioning workers—those who are unemployed, and this was especially true in Crawford County.

Through a partnership with MCEC, MRPC, Dr. Sean Siebert, Crawford County Sheriff Darin Layman, Missouri Job Center and Workforce Development, a unique and innovative program, called Rehabilitation through Innovation, was developed to provide Work Keys testing to unemployed individuals housed in the Crawford County jail who would soon be re-entering the workforce.

The program focused on entrepreneurship as a mindset, helped participants identify their skills and abilities, provided a positive environment for learning workforce options and opportunities and culminated in each participant completing the ACT Work Keys testing, resulting in a National Career Readiness Certificate.

The Rehabilitation through Innovation program also directly worked with area employers to open doors for employment possibilities where typically a criminal record would have been almost a guarantee of no consideration of employment. The program focused on uniting business leaders, representatives from the corrections system, and workforce development specialists with the goal of improving reentry and employment outcomes for individuals with criminal histories.

By the end of June, 36 individuals in the Crawford County Jail completed the program, of which only one has been re-incarcerated for charges prior to the completion of the program.

“They (the participants) saw themselves differently,” said Dr. Sean Siebert. “During our time together, their own view, of their own self-worth, changed. No more shame, no more guilt. By the end of our time together, the participants felt good about who they were, they liked the person that they had become. When that happens, when that mindset is forever changed, life moving forward is different. It’s a special thing, and that’s what this program is able to do.”

The program not only had a large impact on the individuals participating, and how they viewed law enforcement.

“These individuals began to see me in a different light,” Sheriff Layman said. “I wasn’t just a badge to them anymore.”

After seeing such success in Crawford County, the hope is continuing the program in Crawford County and by starting to replicate it all around the state and even the country to not only address the growing workforce issue, but give these individuals another outlook on their life.

“The Rehabilitation through Innovation program has been a true catalyst of change, not only locally, but all throughout the United States,” said Dr. Siebert. “I’ve been contacted by individuals from both sides of the country, from Alabama to Arizona, and many others in-between. The program is a source of hope for some, and a real solution to our current workforce needs for all. Our model of collaboration works, and others are eager to replicate the effort.”

To learn more about the Delta Regional Authority’s programs and initiatives, visit www.dra.gov.

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel serves as chairman of the board. A professional staff of 26 offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.