Magazine article Corrections Today

Virginia Youth: Apprenticeship Programs

Magazine article Corrections Today

Virginia Youth: Apprenticeship Programs

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: The following is an edited version of an article that appeared in the Correctional Industry Association's newsletter, CIA News, in the spring. Reprinted with CIA's permission.

An apprenticeship is a relationship between an employer and an individual during which the worker or apprentice learns a trade. In the days of Ben Franklin, who learned a printer's trade as an apprentice, an apprenticeship was the main way for someone to enter a skilled occupation.

Today of course, a young person can enter a career any number of ways. For many occupations, however, an apprenticeship is still one of the best ways to enter a skilled trade or profession. To achieve greater success with youths, correctional programs must teach them marketable skills and/or trade skills while they are institutionalized in order for them to be productive citizens upon release. Instead of committing new offenses, these youths can become responsible, taxpaying members of the community.

In the commonwealth of Virginia, youth apprenticeships are operated as a means to improve the early work experience and job training for incarcerated wards in Virginia's juvenile justice system. Currently, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has several apprenticeship programs for youths under the state's direct care.

In the fall of 1995, a collaborative initiative between the Department of Labor, DJJ and the Virginia Department of Correctional Education was developed to provide registered job skills training for youths with long-term commitments. The apprenticeship program, registered with the Department of Labor and Industry, provides youths with marketable job skills training, which is recognized by the business community.

As DJJ coordinator of Apprenticeship Programs and Manager of Youth Industries, the state's juvenile enterprise program, I think the apprenticeship program gives youths an opportunity to: develop positive work habits and pro-work values; apply and compete for jobs; work for real businesses, which have counterparts in their home communities; and acquire acceptable job performance and maintenance skills. Youths who are unable to complete apprenticeship training programs during their lengths of stay are supported in their efforts to secure and continue their apprenticeships through apprenticeship placements in the community.

Research indicates that a considerable number of juvenile offenders continue their involvement with the judicial system. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) reported in its study, Serious Offenders: Multi-Jurisdictional Analysis of Court Cases (1993), that 45 percent of the youths transferred to circuit court had prior commitments to the DJJ. The Joint Legislative and Review Committee's (JLARC) 1996 report using a fiscal year 1993 study sample in the "Operation and Impact of Juvenile Corrections Services in Virginia" and the 1999 report on "System wide Outcomes for Youth with Juvenile Justice System Experience during fiscal year 1994, reported that seven out of 10 juveniles were rearrested within a short time following release from a structured treatment setting with 40 percent of these youths ending up in the adult prison system within 10 years following their release from treatment. …

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