Western Nevada College brings manufacturing course to prisoners

Professor Matt Anderson helps student Cameron Castaneda.

Professor Matt Anderson helps student Cameron Castaneda.
Rachael Schneider/WNC

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In early 2021, Maxwell Hurt-Lewis found himself homeless and jobless in Reno.

“As a result, I was running amok. I was really living for nothing,” he said. “I was making irresponsible decisions that led me to prison.”

As he prepares for his release from the Nevada Department of Corrections this year, he’s hoping the skills he’s gained while incarcerated can help him avoid returning to that lifestyle.

“If I get what I need out of this, it will maximize my chances of having a life that’s sustainable,” he said. “I can have a life where I’m responsible and taking care of myself, not on the streets.”

Hurt-Lewis is enrolled in the Applied Industrial Technology class at Stewart Conservation Camp in Carson City. The class is part of a partnership between Western Nevada College’s Higher Education in Prison Program and the Department of Corrections.

“This is an excellent opportunity for incarcerated students to build marketable skills for when they are released,” said Matthew Anderson, recently tenured professor at WNC. “The students at SCC have been very eager to learn and have been looking forward to joining the Nevada workforce.”

For the first time, Anderson has been able to bring the course to the incarcerated through use of the mobile Automation and Industrial Technology Center known as the Tech Express.

Upon completion of the courses, students earn their Manufacturing Technology Level 1 (MT1) credential. The MT1 documents that an individual is prepared for above entry-level industrial technology positions with fundamental knowledge and skills in general manufacturing concepts and technologies. The nationally recognized MT1 certification is embedded into a three-course series and is issued by the Manufacturing Skills Institute, as well as endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers.

The Automation and Industrial Technology Center’s striking mobile learning lab began serving the region in the spring of 2021. The certifications attainable within the mobile lab are in high demand with local aerospace, mining, manufacturing and technology employers. They can be completed in short time periods and require very few prerequisites.

Offender Cameron Castaneda, who has taken several college classes, was asked to enroll in the course to help his fellow students with study habits and other tactics.

“I’ve always been more of a bookworm. I’ve never been mechanically inclined,” he said. “But once I started learning this stuff, I realized this is a very good opportunity for employment once I get out. I’ve learned skills I didn’t think I had.

“It’s helped me gain confidence for when I’m released.”

By introducing the Tech Express to the Prison Program, students are given an opportunity to pursue a career in manufacturing with a sustainable income.

The education program provides mentorship and skills that apply to life inside and outside the walls of the Stewart Conservation Camp.

“We know that offenders who leave prison with marketable skills relevant to today’s workforce are less likely to reoffend and to create meaningful lives,” said Bill Quenga, NDOC deputy director. “We are grateful to WNC for bringing opportunities like this to our offenders to help them reintegrate into society.”


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