Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Instructor helps prison inmates learn RV repair skills

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After 24 years of working for private industry, Mark Munday of Gatesville found a new calling in teaching valuable work skills to female prison inmates that can help them build a new future.

Munday teaches women who are incarcerated at the Woodman Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice how to be RV technicians. The job is in high demand, and those working in that career can earn a comfortable living. Technicians Munday talked to told him they can work as many hours as they want and can earn $100,000 per year if they are willing to put in the time.

Through the Windham School District that serves TDCJ inmates, Munday has the ability to help transform lives.

"If they can get a job (after they leave TDCJ), it's definitely a win-win situation," Munday said during a presentation to the Gatesville Exchange Club. "It makes me feel good that they can get a job and be productive. Taxpayers pay for their education, but once they start making an income, they give back by paying taxes."

The women learn a variety of skills in repairing RV systems, including electrical, plumbing, propane and refrigerators.

"They all come in knowing nothing which is great – I can train them the right way," Munday said.

"There is a big waiting list, and they love getting the opportunity to do this. They can come in and learn a lot right away."

The program takes about 4-5 months to complete, and the women are tested on their knowledge, which enables them to get hired. Munday said one former inmate had much more knowledge and skill in RV system repairs than workers who had already been at one company. She is now helping to train them on the systems.

"When customers buy an RV off the lot, they sometimes return it because there are problems so the dealers have started to require a pre-delivery inspection," Munday said. "We train the women so they are able to do these inspections, to troubleshoot and how to make repairs. They can inspect and work on RVs, trailers, pop-up campers – whatever comes in.

"I teach them more than they are required to learn. It's great when they can get out with a job already lined up."

The program is at the Woodman Unit because the women serving there have shorter sentences than some of the other women's prisons, meaning they can put those skills to use on the job much more quickly.

"The goal is to keep them from coming back to prison, and if they are able to learn skills that will qualify them for good jobs, then they don't come back," Munday said.

Some of the classes begin about 4 a.m., but Munday said the ones he teaches are from about 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

"We teach them things like how to work with both AC and DC (electrical) voltage, and they're fascinated when they learn stuff," he said. "When there's a problem, they have to solve it. When they figure it out, they're so happy, it makes them feel good.

"They get certificates for passing tests and that helps them get jobs. I tell them just because they've been in prison doesn't mean they can't get a job and turn their lives around. It's just a great opportunity for them."