Next Chapter – offering former inmates a path to tech career with software engineering apprenticeship

kenyatta real

For those in prison, it’s hard to get and keep a job afterward. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the more than 50,000 people released from federal prisons in 2010, one-third were unable to find work four years after their release.

The overall employment rate was between 35% and 38%, meaning about two-thirds were unemployed at any given time.

Those lucky enough to get a job earned only 53% of the average U.S. wage in the first few months of their release, and were paid less than the general population. Black and Native American ex-convicts had the lowest incomes.

One organization trying to improve the situation is Next Chapter, which provides people in prison with a path to technical jobs. The scheme takes the form of an eight-month paid apprenticeship program in which formerly incarcerated people are taught software engineering skills.

The apprenticeship consists of 3 months in Hack Reactor’s software engineering bootcamp to improve your skills and learn what it takes to be an engineer. Following this, she will work with one of Next Chapter’s 15 recruiting partners on-site for her five months. During that time, the apprentice will work alongside the engineering team to learn about the workplace and fine-tune their skills.

The important thing is that the entire apprenticeship is paid and provides living expenses so that people can properly focus on their training. The Next Chapter provides additional support in the form of professional coaching to help apprentices tackle a variety of challenges they may be experiencing and plan their future personally and professionally. The Technical Director works with the Apprenticeship and Engineering teams to facilitate learning.

Apprentices can also seek support from their peer network of nearly 50 Next Chapter alumni. They have all completed the program and are able to share their experiences.

Through an apprenticeship, 31 former inmates have become engineers and about 10 are in various stages of becoming engineers.

According to Kenyatta Leal, executive director of the Next Chapter program, potential apprentices typically learn about the Next Chapter program through word of mouth.

Our program is primarily built on partnerships. We are partnering with other organizations that help formerly incarcerated people return home to help them stay on the right track and develop the career skills they need to enter the job market. doing. It is through conversations with these organizations that words pass through the vines.

The ideal candidate is someone who has been out of prison for about a year, has a stable routine since returning home, is on track for parole, and is open to opportunities such as the next chapter. A man who is ready for. Leal adds:

When they get home we look for milestones in the person’s life. We will try to help you get on track to prepare for our program.

It doesn’t matter if they were recently laid off or have been laid off for 10 years. If you are interested in pursuing a career in software engineering, I would love to work with you.


Leal has worked with Next Chapter since its inception in 2018. The main purpose of this organization is to create a more equitable workplace where everyone has the opportunity to grow.

Seeing people break the cycle of family confinement and the cycle of intergenerational poverty and put themselves in a position where they can create intergenerational wealth, especially since he has personal experience of the situation. so it’s always special:

I came to this job through my own imprisonment. I was in prison in California for over 20 years. While there, I worked really hard and participated in many programs to turn my life around and help people do the same.

During his tenure, Leal helped establish a program called The Last Mile, a software engineering training program within the walls of San Quentin Prison.

Through that job, I was introduced to Next Chapter. This opportunity will help those inside turn their apprenticeship into a real opportunity to become an engineer when they return home. I have worked at the intersection of judicial reform and technology for nearly a decade.

The number of apprentices available in Next Chapter generally depends on the number of people our 15 hiring partners can take on. As far as standards go, the organization looks for someone who has been able to demonstrate some stability since returning home, and from Leal’s first-hand experience, he knows first-hand what it’s like.

We are looking for someone who has made a promise to do the right thing, who has not just gotten out of prison, but who has done introspective work that is useful to those outside of prison. I didn’t go to jail. I had to learn some lessons while there.

One of the things we look for in candidates is someone who learns from their own experience, is committed to being better today than they were yesterday, and demonstrates it by working hard day in and day out. We are looking for people with perseverance, a positive attitude, and a willingness to use their experience to help others.

The overwhelming majority of real people want to go about their day, apply for programs, have those qualities, want to give back, want to work hard.

Salesforce Grant

Next Chapter just received a $2.5 million grant from Salesforce, so it may soon open up its program to more people. This grant will help increase opportunities for people to enter the workforce as engineers, and Next Chapter will work with corporate partners to develop best practices and provide a level playing field for all.

This program is working and is just the beginning of what we can do if we continue to close this education gap and create more opportunities for people when they go home.

During his prison experience, Leal met thousands of talented men skilled in various blue-collar trades and working hard to turn their lives around.

However, we live in the information age, and with the abundance of training opportunities available online for people today, there is a huge opportunity to upskill a wide swath of the largely marginalized population.

The purpose of the next chapter is to show that those who give their time are worth it and that having more opportunities to work, take care of their families and contribute to their communities is a win-win for everyone. . real says:

We spend a lot of time and money locking people up and not investing in them rejoining the community. The United States has come up with many ways to breathe new life into plastic bottles and aluminum cans, but there are too few of them to reliably resurrect those incarcerated. Each of us has a role to play in a society that people have come home to and we can do better.

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