Former Philadelphia DA leads new vocational program aimed at giving people a second chance

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) is opening a new Vocational Training Center in Philadelphia at 8th Street and Girard Avenue.

The program's mission is about giving people second chances. Leading the charge is a very high-profile figure in the city, former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Williams is a self-proclaimed poster child of second chances.

"Vocational training for a career path is one of the greatest ways to prevent crime and reduce recidivism," Williams said.

For Williams, the new role is personal after serving three years in federal prison for a bribery charge.

The vocational training center in Philadelphia will be modeled much like the one in Baltimore. It's a nationwide initiative put on by the non-profit The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.

The centers help veterans, at-risk youth, people with intellectual and emotional disabilities and those with criminal records.

"We believe if we can change one life, we can change their family's life, it changes the life of the community," CEO Herb Hoelter said.

Participants receive 15 weeks of training in one of five areas: HVAC, automotive, truck driving, culinary arts and drone training.

Many say the program comes at a crucial time when the homicide rate in Philadelphia is spiking.

"It's about people who don't have the spirit, the confidence, the drive to get up and handle things because they don't know where to go," Councilmember David Oh said.

"What our kids need, what people out of prison need, are the same things that people at Penn, and Drexel, and Harvard, and all these other places got: margin of error, unconditional love and the belief they could do whatever," said John Wetzel, secretary of corrections for Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Philadelphia's new vocational training center will open Monday.

The Baltimore center boasts 75% job placement, and the Philadelphia center aims to have the same success.
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