Youth career centers planned for Macon, Eastman YDC campuses

lfabian@macon.comJune 30, 2014 

Young offenders leaving Georgia’s Youth Development Campuses are less likely to return if they can land a job.

After reviewing recent studies showing statistically significant reductions in recidivism for employed former offenders, Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice plans to open youth career guidance centers in Macon, Eastman and five other Youth Development Campuses across the state.

In existing classroom wings and libraries, trained career counselors will set up offices to help the youths devise an individualized career path, according to a statement from the department.

The department’s new Reentry Services Unit will implement the career guidance program.

“We have empowered our Reentry Services Unit to do what it takes to help our youth make successful transitions back to their communities once their court-ordered commitments have been served,” DJJ Commissioner Avery D. Niles said.

The centers will help provide necessary training, guidance and materials to help teens make decisions for successful transitions into the job market.

The new career guidance program also is being developed for YDCs in Americus, Atlanta, Augusta, Midland and Milan.

Those long-term facilities are where the program can help accomplish the most to provide communities with educated and skilled employees, Niles said.

Youths will be assessed for their occupational strengths and interests and be trained to build resumes.

“Step one for each of these youth career centers will be to help enable our young offenders to raise a positive self-awareness through the development of a job skill,” Niles said. “And then this program becomes a stair-step process.”

Those with marketable skills will be taught career development and job retention strengths to increase the probability of success, he said.

“Then as their career skills advance and their court-ordered incarcerations come to an end, we can help transition those youth back into their communities as more marketable individuals.”

The DJJ will work with the Georgia Department of Labor, technical colleges and organizations in each community.

All youths in custody must develop their own career plans, make contacts with the Department of Labor and maintain those relationships once they transition back home.

“This Youth Career Center plan will help us get nonviolent, first-time offenders back on their feet and back on the right road to becoming law-abiding, contributing citizens,” Niles said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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