Justice Involved Youth Is Not a "Career Death Sentence" in the State of South Carolina

By Arroyo, Zoraida, V; Mayes, Harold B. et al. | Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, Spring 2019 | Go to article overview

Justice Involved Youth Is Not a "Career Death Sentence" in the State of South Carolina


Arroyo, Zoraida, V, Mayes, Harold B., Snipes, Robert J., Career Planning and Adult Development Journal


South Carolina's Solution

In April of 2013, the Director of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) was reading an article on the unemployment rate in South Carolina for the total workforce. At that time, the unemployment rate for the total workforce in the state was at its lowest point (7.6%) in more than 15 years; the State was on a long streak ofjob growth. As she continued to read, she noticed that the unemployment rate for young adults from 20-24 years of age was 13.0%, still a recent low. However, as she continued further into the article, she noticed that the unemployment rate for youth ages 16-19 years (which is the "sweet spot" for SCDJJ clients) was at an all-time high of 27.4%. Not only was it an all-time high for the state but South Carolina had the second highest unemployment rate for 16-19 years of age of all southeastern states, only second to Mississippi (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013). Determined to effect change and not allow the state's prosperity to exclude this vital yet vulnerable population, the Governor's office reached out to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice to begin developing programming to reverse the tide and begin the empowerment ofjustice involved youth of South Carolina.

The Development of the Job Readiness Training Center

The first step in the evolution of education and workforce development programing came in October 2013 when the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) opened its innovative, Job Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Columbia, SC. The mission of the JRTC was three-fold. First, to Equipjustice involved youth with soft skills andjob readiness skills required to getajob. Secondly, to Expose them to different occupations, careers and education opportunities. Thirdly, and most importantly Assist them in maintaining employment as well as their pursuit of higher education and a career path: Mission Formula = (E 2A).

In order to accomplish the mission, it was imperative that the agency has a central location for coordination of the services to be provided. The JRTC is a multi-use facility that houses classroom and meeting space designed to provide amenities that enhance the learning experience. The facility is equipped with video conferencing, video projection, smart-board technology, a computer learning lab and conference room for meetings and other training. While class size at the JRTC facility is limited to about 16 youth, additional training is offered to students at remote locations around the state through video conference link. SCDJJ has video conferencing in every county in the state as well as at private placement facilities wherejustice involved youth may be placed. A major goal of the JRTC is to provide on-going career and employment training to as many youths as possible, regardless of where they are physically located.

Through research and study of current labor market trends, the JRTC seeks to equip youth with skills that are most desired by employers. This is accomplished with curriculum that is designed to meet the specific needs of both employers and youth. While instruction is provided by DJJ staff, community partners from different disciplines are also an integral part of DJJ's mission to not only provide rehabilitative services but also be a tool for intervention in communities throughout the state. Some of the topics covered in the course curriculums include but are not limited to: interview skills, resume writing, effective communication and conflict resolution. There is also a focus on the use of technology in job search and professional correspondence.

Target Population

While the Agency seeks to provide opportunities for youth throughout the state of South Carolina regardless of their involvement with thejustice system, the JRTC's main target audience remains justice involved youth on probation, parole, or committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice. The primary age ranges from 12 to 18. …

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