Healthcare Facility Upgrade Spotlights Staffing Resource

Facility renovation at California Institution for Men also provided incarcerated persons with hands-on training.

By Dan Hounsell
May 11, 2022

The Great Resignation and the resulting staffing shortage in the United States have created real problems for many institutional and commercial facilities since 2020. The problems are nothing new for most maintenance and engineering managers, who have spent more than a decade struggling to find and train entry-level technicians while trying to retain older workers looking to move on or retire. 

Facilities managers in hospitals and other healthcare facilities have faced the same struggles, and their challenges were magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which created tremendous stress on their staffs and prompted many workers to leave the field altogether. 

Managers continue to scour the traditional sources of new technicians, including the military and technical schools and colleges. One resource that managers might want to pay a bit more attention to is the nation’s correctional facilities, where inmates can receive training in construction and maintenance trades. 

Consider the example of the healthcare facility at California Institution for Men (CIM) in Chino. The building recently received an upgrade that also provided incarcerated persons with hands-on training designed to lead to professional certificates and career skills they can use upon release. 

The Inmate/Ward Labor program (I/WL) renovated the 61-year-old, 3,200-square-foot clinic in four-and-a half months. Workers added new acoustic ceilings, vinyl flooring, security lighting, paint, cabinets and countertops with sinks. Plumbing fixtures in exam rooms were replaced and cubicles added to allow space for furniture. 

The I/WL Program was established in 1983 and is directly involved with new construction, renovation, and repair of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities and primarily consists of incarcerated individuals and skilled casual trades personnel under the supervision of CDCR staff. This approach provides incarcerated individuals with meaningful work and training in construction trades that develop marketable job skills they can use when they are released from prison. 

Incarcerated individuals receive on-the-job training in various vocational trades such as concrete, masonry, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet metal, and iron working. They also can earn certifications in the use and application of materials, such as welding, fire caulking, and epoxy flooring. In addition to developing skills with construction materials and tools, incarcerated individuals also can become certified to operate construction equipment such as forklifts, reach lifts, boom lifts, scissor lifts, and skid steers. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor for the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience covering engineering, maintenance, and grounds management issues in institutional and commercial facilities. 

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