Los Angeles County’s top education and probation officials cut the ribbon today on the largest hands-on vocational training program for youth offenders in the juvenile court school system.
Located at the Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster, “BuildingSkills: Construction Careers for the 21st Century” prepares students for 20 construction-related trades — such as carpentry, masonry and plumbing — helping them learn if their interests and aptitudes are well-suited to these careers.
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“Enhancing vocational education opportunities is one of the most critical things we can do to help set incarcerated students on a positive course in school and in life,” said Arturo Delgado, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). “In a time when educational programs are being slashed to the bone, it is truly uplifting to be able to provide this opportunity to our county’s most vulnerable and at-risk youth.”
LACOE is a partner with the Probation Department, operating 13 fully accredited high schools in the county’s juvenile halls and camps that serve some 2,300 incarcerated students daily. A key goal for reform in these facilities is to provide increased vocational education programming.
Delgado joined with Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers today at a morning ceremony with stakeholders to launch the BuildingSkills program at LACOE’s Christa McAuliffe School, which serves the 250 youth detained at Challenger.
“We want the young people under our supervision to leave the juvenile justice system with job-ready skills,” Powers said. “The fact is, unemployment–and a lack of education–are major risk factors for recidivism. The ‘BuildingSkills’ program shows promise in providing youth with these critical skills.”
BuildingSkills was launched at McAuliffe School at a cost of $150,000 with the support of federal Title I funds for delinquent and neglected youth, and special funding from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. A portion of the funding was used to install specialized safety and security features for the program’s use with youth offenders.
Students enrolled in the program may earn career-technical education (CTE) credits for high school and a general construction industry certificate from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which gives them a leg up in being hired at the apprentice level.
LACOE plans to implement BuildingSkills at three additional juvenile probation camps by June 30: Mendenhall in Lake Hughes, Miller in Malibu and Scott-Scudder in Saugus. Once fully implemented, the program is expected to benefit some 200 youth offenders annually.
The program is made possible through a contract with Paxton/Patterson, a Chicago-based company that provides learning systems for Construction, STEM, Health Science and Family & Consumer Sciences.