LA PLATA, Md.—The College of Southern Maryland was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to provide trade skills training for juvenile ex-offenders. The Juvenile Offenders Building Skills (JOBS) project, a collaboration between CSM and more than 30 strategic partners from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, will provide a variety of skills training in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and plumbing to 96 young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 years old who have been involved in the juvenile justice system.
"CSM's vision of transforming lives through lifelong learning and service applies to every person in our community including young adults who have been in trouble. It's a vicious cycle of getting in trouble for some of these young people and by working with government agencies and social service organizations we can help break that cycle and help these individuals realize their potential," said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried, adding that the grant funds are allowing CSM to build a model program that can be emulated in other communities.
"Not only will these young adults learn a marketable skill, they will be reconnecting with their communities through a community service element that is built into the JOBS program," said CSM Continuing Education and Workforce Development Vice President Daniel Mosser.
CSM was the only organization in Maryland and was one of only three colleges nationally to receive funding from DOL for the JOBS program this year.
The project stemmed from CSM's county advisory boards, through which Southern Maryland sheriffs asked Gottfried for help in developing a program for ex-offenders once they reached age 18 and left the juvenile justice system. Data from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services indicated that the recidivism rate (reconviction rate) in Southern Maryland averages 19.24 percent. According to projections in the JOBS project abstract, this program will cut that recidivism rate to 10 percent. Work on the grant proposal began two years ago.
Participants will be interviewed prior to being accepted into the program and must commit to six months of full-time training and three months of employment follow-up services once they complete training.
Beginning this fall, the program will serve four cohorts each comprised of 24 individuals. JOBS participants will enter HVAC or plumbing technician skills training with two-thirds of the 850-hour program in classrooms and labs and the remaining third devoted to community service projects. The community service projects will allow participants to practice their newly acquired construction skills along with teamwork and leadership skills.
"For example, a faith-based organization using volunteers to install plumbing in low-income homes could now have the help of a dozen trained JOBS participants in the plumbing program who are working to meet their community service requirement," said Mosser.
GED classes will be provided for participants who lack a high school diploma, and participants will also receive employability training and develop job search skills. Upon completion, participants will receive the same certification that CSM students attending HVAC and plumbing boot camps receive and they will be placed as entry-level HVAC or plumbing technicians with employers in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
This project is supported by more than 30 strategic partners from Southern Maryland including, Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, Southern Maryland Workforce Investment Board, county sheriffs' offices, county chambers of commerce, county departments of social services, county boards of education, county departments of health including mental health and substances abuse and state and local agencies including juvenile courts, One-Stop Career Center, housing authorities, community-based and faith-based organizations, and local employers.