Grand Rapids Chamber Tours Vocational Village  

GR Chamber Tours Vocational Village  

Recently, Grand Rapids Chamber staff and several members visited the State of Michigan’s Vocational Village.

The skilled trades training program, located at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, first opened in 2016. A second site was launched at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan in 2017.

The program, commonly referred to as “the village,” focuses on vocational training programs for prisoners. This first-of-its-kind program currently has course offerings in the building trades, automotive technology, computer coding, and computer numerical control.

When operating at full capacity, the Vocational Village at the Handlon Correctional Facility has 165 vocational trade students, 27 vocational trade tutors and 12 building trade workers. The second location in Jackson has an even larger capacity and houses 240 vocational trade students and 32 trade tutors. 

Future returning citizens are able to participate in hands-on training as well as classroom instruction. The structure mimics a typical workday to better prepare participants for release, and the data shows that recidivism rates decrease dramatically for those who were in the program. On top of that, returning citizens can better their lives through gainful employment.  

Diane Maher, President and Chief Operating Officer of DP Fox Ventures, LLC, joined the tour to again see firsthand the work and training that is being done. DP Fox has been an early supporter of the Village and has hired several graduates from the program. 

“It is a true win-win program for all of us.”  

“Fox Motors has been working with the Vocational Village for three years. We currently have five villagers working with us in the automotive technician field,” said Maher. “This skill set is in short supply and we have appreciated the work of the village to fill a need while impacting society in a positive way.  We have found the team at Vocational Village to be passionate, knowledgeable and open minded in their approach to solve a need for business while providing opportunities for the inmates that they serve.”  

This program helps support much needed job training programs, while also supporting returning citizens. You can find more information on the program HERE 

If you’re interested in learning about this program or hiring graduates, you can contact Nate Henschel, Director of Government Affairs, at  


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