South Carolina’s Department of Employment and Workforce said Wednesday it will expand a program that teaches job skills to at-risk high school students to include those no longer in school.
The Jobs for America’s Graduates program has been taught in South Carolina schools for 13 years. The agency said it had a completion rate of 98.86 percent last year and will now expand the program to include those 16-24 years old who are not in school.
“In addition to getting a GED, which is one of the program requirements, they will learn job skills, they will get work experience and they will have also community service experience,” Director of Workforce Programs Mary Jo Schmick said.
“A lot of them have barriers, just general life barriers besides literacy,” she said. “They might have come from bad situations, home life — or lack of home life — and just need some guidance to get them into self-sufficient employment.”
JAG-SC leaders say it has assisted more than 11,000 students through 25 affiliated sites since 2004.
“We’ve had great success with our in-school program. We have a 98% graduation rate,” Schmick said. “The population that we’re targeting now is a lot harder to keep involved and keep in the program so our performance criteria is lower, so our goals — it’s just a difficult population to keep on track.”
In addition to the classroom and work experience, students work with job mentors. Students who complete the program can end up being placed in employment, higher education or the military.
“The mentorship is a big part of this program,” Schmick said. “So that the JAG specialists who work with these students, they really make a big difference in their lives and really help them to where they need to be to be better citizens.”
“We’re certainly wanting our out-of-school program to mimic what we have been doing in the in-school program,” DEW spokesman Robert Bouyea.
The department is offering up to $200,000 to schools, churches, nonprofits and community groups interested in providing the program. Any public, private, nonprofit agencies that work with youth can apply and partner with local workforce area offices.
An informational session for groups interested in applying for the grants is December 8. Applications are due January 10, 2018.