Bill Davidson’s purposeful approach prepares prisoners to reenter the workforce
Bill Davidson, CALPIA’s new General Manager, sat down with SQNews to talk about his new role, COVID, and his vision for the program.
SQN: Hi, thanks for sitting down with SQNews. So what does a CALPIA General Manager do?
BD: The CALPIA General Manager leads development and operations of correctional job training programs and enterprises. I believe in our mission to provide incarcerated individuals with life-changing training opportunities for successful reentry into the community.
SQN: So what are some of the big projects you are working on to bring to CDCR? What are some of your goals for educating the incarcerated students or providing marketable skills?
BD: We are expanding our technology programs to include Auto-CAD inside the walls at Folsom State Prison, as well as Code.7370 (Computer Coding) at Folsom Women’s Facility. This allows more individuals to have the opportunity to learn these valuable job skills. I am also excited about connecting employers to our graduates. We have had great success with participants securing jobs with private companies along with state agencies such as Caltrans.
SQN: That sounds great. What other training opportunities are you offering?
BD: We have expanded our soft skills training through the Essential Skills for the Workforce (ESW) program, which focuses on life and professional skills necessary to be successful in the workplace, building on research, common workplace practices, and curriculum for justice-involved individuals.
SQN: Tell us more about ESW.
BD: The ESW workbook is self-paced and self-reflective. This program aligns with the CDCR and CALPIA’s mission to facilitate the successful reintegration of individuals to their communities. The workbook introduces the “basics” of soft skills and introduces life and professional skills necessary to be successful in the workplace such as: communication, enthusiasm and positive attitude, teamwork, networking, leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking and conflict resolution, workplace ethics, creative thinking, time management, and flexibility and adaptability.
SQN: OK, that sounds like CALPIA is trying to provide a lot. What are some of the challenges and successes, since you have to meet so many students’ needs (such as basic education, vocational, and Spanish-speaking students or workers)?
BD: Navigating our operations through the COVID pandemic has been, by far, the biggest challenge in my time in this role. But along with this challenge has come great success as CALPIA has risen to that challenge and sustained and maintained our operations while ensuring the health and safety of all of our employees. I see every challenge we face as an opportunity for growth. CALPIA has hundreds of success stories. CALPIA offers a wide variety of programs from Healthcare Facilities Maintenance to Code.7370 to fit each individual’s needs.
SQN: Speaking of COVID, how has the pandemic affected the PIA programing? What can we expect in the future when faced with other outbreaks?
BD: COVID has definitely impacted CALPIA programming. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have worked very closely with CDCR to ensure that we have been able to sustain our operations and maintain the highest level of programming, while ensuring the safety and well-being of all workers within our enterprises. The health and safety of each one of our workers has been, and will continue to be, our number one priority. CALPIA follows all protocols and guidelines set forth by CCHCS and CDCR.
SQN: Now for the tough question. So with the rise of inflation and the protest by some prison advocates about some of the prison industry being slave labor — first, what are your views on this statement? Second, will there be any wage increases?
BD: I cannot speak on behalf of these questions since these topics are part of pending legislation.
SQN: Hey, I just had to ask what our incarcerated readers really want to know. So what is your vision to move PIA programs and industries forward?
BD: A top priority to me is to continue working with outside employers so that as many of our CALPIA workers as possible can have meaningful jobs as soon as they return to their communities. I also want to continue to invest in our operations so that the equipment and machinery being used in our programs is state-of-the-art equipment that our workers will use when they have jobs outside of prison. And third, to continue to assess our current operations to make them as efficient as possible and identify potential new job training opportunities that CALPIA may be able to pursue. It is also a priority of mine to travel to each prison and meet all CALPIA participants and staff. I believe it is important to see for myself what programs are providing successful outcomes and make improvements going forward.
SQN: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Please add any thoughts of inspiration or words you want the readers to know.
BD: I want everyone to know how proud I am of all the hard work and dedication from each participant in our programs. I am humbled to be leading this incredible organization that truly believes in second chances. I am encouraged by each success story I hear and know there are many more to come.