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Helena Prerelease Center residents learning to weld

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Posted at 5:01 PM, May 28, 2024

HELENA — The Welding Trailer Pilot Program, an initiative by the MT Department of Corrections, began on May 6 at Helena College.

The four-week program is a partnership between Great Falls College, Helena College, the Montana Department of Corrections, and the Department of Labor. In the hopes of reducing recidivism, the program invited six members from the Helena Prerelease Center to gain the skills to acquire their welding D1.1 certification. This program is just beginning, but the Department of Corrections hopes to eventually take the mobile unit into correctional facilities to allow inmates to acquire these skills.

“And one of the great parts about having a trailer, a mobile welding classroom like this, is that we can take this trailer to our secure facilities that don’t have a welding classroom, so we have equity in educational opportunities. So, we can have chances for individuals that are in other facilities to learn how to weld,” says Travis Anderson, Education Services Bureau Chief with the Montana DOC.

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Cody Torres, the program’s instructor and curriculum author, says this is one of the most hard-working groups of individuals he’s taught during his nearly decade-long career as an instructor.

“Actually, really surprised me as far as how much these guys want it. And you don’t, it’s hard to come by as far as students nowadays, traditional students coming straight from high school, you have to go and chase after them to get any type of work done. That was not the case whatsoever with this group. Definitely one of the hardest and best work ethic groups that I’ve had pull through,” says Torres.

Jerry Lantis, a participating student, says this pilot program will give him the skills he needs to exit the prerelease center ready to contribute to society in a vital trade to support his family.

“It’s going to guarantee that I can actually take care of my children and give them all their needs. But I don’t have to worry about them not needing something, you know, take care of my wife, you know, to where we can be a happy family, where we can go and take trips, have family time. I can take my kids to the park. I can take them out to eat. I can make sure they have clothes, their school equipment and be a good father and be a good husband,” says Lantis.

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Anderson says that they believe this could be a building block for growing similar programs with other trades.

“I think this could be a great model for leveraging and providing access to these types of education in secure facilities. Yeah, I think that there will be, there could be opportunities to do all kinds of things like this,” says Anderson.