By Robert Kittle
The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice cut the ribbon Tuesday on a new center that will get at-risk youth ready to get jobs. The Job Readiness Training Center will teach life and job skills to youth ages 12 to 18 who are behind the fences at DJJ, on probation or parole or in committed status, and other youth as part of the agency's prevention and intervention efforts.
"Not to send them away and say, 'Go out and find that job. We've made you hopefully productive enough to do that.' But we're going to actually connect you with that job in Dillon County, or Oconee County. We're going to find that plumber. We're going to find that electrician. We're going to find the carpenter or the auto mechanic fellow who can take you on as an apprentice," said DJJ Director Margaret Barber.
The JRTC will teach "soft skills", like attitude, responsibility, communication, problem solving, résumé and cover letter writing, interviewing skills, dressing for success, and personal grooming.
While the center is located in Columbia, it's rigged for video conferencing.
After helping cut the ribbon on the building, Gov. Nikki Haley said, "What you may see is a small room here, but the ability to video conference into every community, rural and otherwise and connect with those kids and teach them a skill through video conferencing is really going to be historic for South Carolina. Because it's not just saying you have to come to Columbia to do this. This is allowing them to go and learn right there from where they are, within their community, within their support group."
Austin G., of Mt. Pleasant, is in a DJJ group home after getting into trouble with drugs. While at DJJ he's earned his high school diploma, and now he's already started classes at the new center.
He says of teens who get in trouble with the law,"Everybody puts us off. We feel like nobody cares. So when they have places like this open to people, when they have places like this open to students to come here and know that somebody cares, somebody actually wants to help them, that they'll give them everything they want, everything they need to succeed ... that's all that we want."