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Automotive pre-apprenticeship at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center paves new pathways

Program will give incarcerated individuals the opportunity to learn automotive skills and earn professional credentials

Olympia, Wash.—A new Automotive pre-apprenticeship program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) will now give incarcerated individuals the opportunity to learn automotive skills and earn professional credentials. This will allow them to earn competitive wages, find meaningful work and pursue lifelong learning in the automotive industry.

Walla Walla Community College (WWCC) partnered with Coyote Ridge Corrections Center and was approved for the Independent Technicians Automotive Committee (iTAC) Automotive Pre-Apprenticeship program October 2021. Approval was given by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Although Coyote Ridge has had an automotive certificate class for around 12 years, the pre-apprenticeship track ensures acceptance into an apprenticeship following release from Coyote Ridge Corrections Center and allows an easier pathway into the skilled and certified workforce students hope to join once their coursework is complete.

“This is just like a one-year certificate from any college,” said Denise Kammers, dean of corrections education at WWCC at CCRC. “Just like you get an AA at a community college, these guys are taking three support classes in math, writing and communications, in addition to the automotive classes.”

The Automotive Repair Technology Certificate is equivalent to the first year of the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Automotive Repair Technology, said Kammers.

This opportunity will allow students who complete a one-year automotive certificate to earn 500 hours toward a nationally recognized professional credential.

Upon release, they can work to become a general service technician, which requires 2,000 hours, or a master-service technician, which requires 8,000 hours, and earn a certificate from the state of Washington.

“Were making connections for when they release,” said Douglas LeClair II, automotive instructor CRCC. “The iTAC program is recognized by the Automotive Service Association Washington [ASA] and it represents shops throughout the state. At 2,000 hours, you can make 80 percent of a master service technician, and after a year with our program, they’re coming out with 500 hours already.”

The Department of Corrections (DOC) currently funds all WWCC basic skills, certificate, and AAS programs at Coyote Ridge. The DOC believes in the benefit of investing in incarcerated individuals with pro-social programming to engage the incarcerated population and reduce recidivism, which is a relapse into criminal behavior after release.

“It’s really about the connections to be able to get employment, “LeClair said. “When they release from our program, we will help them with resumes. We use not just our local connections through the college, but the ASA helps with connections throughout Washington.”

In the state of Washington, people are released to their county of origin, said LeClair, so incarcerated at CRCC could end up all over the state once released. He added it was important that the program allowed a network of potential jobs to be wide-spread throughout the state and beyond.

“We represent Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities, but people are released to Spokane, Yakima and the West side,” LeClair said. “The benefit of this program is it allows us to make partnerships across the state and our goal is reentry and to put people in jobs to provide the opportunities for guys to go out and make a living wage.”

“There’s a huge need for technicians, its bigger than it’s ever been so these guys will be ahead of the game,” LeClair said. “It’s one more opportunity for reentry. Many people are immediately hired — one person I know was hired right on the spot. The goal is ultimately a new pathway adding to all their pathways.”

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