The National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) honored the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) with the prestigious Pinnacle Award for Workforce Development at its 2023 Winter Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. The national organization honors one state each year which demonstrates excellence and innovation in the area of workforce development.
TDLWD received the award for Project R.E.A.P., which stands for Reentry, Employment, and Adult Education Program. The goal of the statewide initiative is to curb recidivism through education and workforce development programs for those currently incarcerated in county jails and create a new pipeline of qualified workers for Tennessee employers.
Project R.E.A.P. puts specially designed tablets into Tennessee’s county jails that provide incarcerated individuals the opportunity to complete the required adult education coursework in preparation for the HiSET high school equivalency exam.
“Tennessee realizes the potential for justice-involved individuals to make a meaningful impact on our state’s workforce once they reenter our communities,” said TDLWD Commissioner Deniece Thomas. “The technology Project R.E.A.P. provides allows these individuals to have better access to adult education courses while incarcerated, which benefits not only them but ultimately every Tennessean.”
In addition to the adult education course offerings, participants can also use the tablets for career training, certification reentry preparation, resume building, job search support, mental health services, and substance abuse wellness, as well as life skills, educational games, and TED Talks.
“Project R.E.A.P. in Tennessee is breaking new ground by providing incarcerated individuals the necessary tools, resources, and education to reenter the workforce,” said NASWA President and CEO Scott B. Sanders. “Not only is this innovation enhancing their technical and educational skills, but it is also giving them the means needed to succeed in the workforce.”
TDLWD currently has 5,868 tablets in 77 county jail facilities in Tennessee. Project R.E.A.P. will eventually have nearly 7,600 tablets across the state.