To develop a skill that is in high demand and that can result in paid employment would solve one major problem many formerly incarcerated people face after leaving jail or prison.
Erik (who prefers not to reveal his last name for privacy reasons) is taking the exoffenders.net website he created to help ex-felons search for a job one step further. He’s putting together a set of lessons to teach people how to build websites using WordPress.
His story is not unique. He got into drugs at age 17 and became a convicted felon by age 20. A year before his prison term was up he was transferred to a community reentry program with a supportive staff, which he said changed his life.
After leaving prison and moving to Ohio, Erik couldn’t find any but the lowest level work at Wendy’s. The “box” got in the way, and hiring managers couldn’t look beyond the fact that he was an ex-felon.
But that challenge nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit, and he became a freelance web developer to help support himself. He hopes to help other ex-offenders learn to support themselves in the same way, since website development is a skill that can pay a decent wage. “It’s a field where your experience is more important than your background,” Erik says.
It’s not only a great skill to be able to do as a job, but it can also help anyone who is putting together a small business create and maintain their own website for free.
The lessons are both in written and video form, with the information very clearly explained so most people will be able to create a WordPress site by following the tutorials. Erik now has two lessons up on exoffenders.net and will add more soon, creating enough information for someone to be able to build their own website.
“After that, the lessons will cover other things that people need to know about, like hosting, search engine optimization, marketing, building backlinks and getting into ways of monetizing it (the website),” he says.
Erik is hoping to establish a broader curriculum, drawing in other people with complementary skills. He’s lined up someone to teach a class in how to make money online and is looking for volunteers to create more courses.
The ultimate goal, he says, “is to have a better life. I can’t really force people to take the classes. I can’t hold their hand, but I can try my best to teach them skills that they can take into the job market.”