A success story was celebrated Thursday inside the Cherokee County Detention Center where inmates wait for their court dates and release back into society.
Fifteen male inmates graduated from a new Operation Workforce training program and were awarded Ready to Work national career readiness certificates in a ceremony before family members inside the jail.
Classes taught by Spartanburg Community College allowed the inmates to receive 65 hours of training in manufacturing skill standards, forklift safety and a safety certification for general industry through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The college has funding available to assist the inmates in earning a 3-year forklift operator license upon their release.
Cherokee County Development Board Director Jim Cook and Assistant Director Ken Moon and Cherokee County School Superintendent Dr. Dana Fall attended the graduation ceremony. Representatives from SC Works, Plygem, Carolina Cotton Works, and Dollar Tree Distribution Center were present to share information with inmates about employment resources.
Dollar Tree Distribution Center Human Resources Manager Kim Phillips said the workforce training program is a valuable resource to provide more workers for businesses in a strong economy where it’s difficult to fill job openings.
“We will go anywhere we can to find good employees,” said Phillips about the recent addition of the Operation Workforce Training program in the detention center. “I think it’s wonderful this is being offered. It helps us, and it helps (the inmates) by providing them with more job skills.”
Adult education teachers have provided education classes since 2014 to help inmates earn a Ready to Work career readiness certificate. Platinum, gold, silver or bronze certificates can be earned based on a student’s scores in Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information and Locating Information.
Two inmates earned gold career readiness certificates while six inmates received a silver certificate. Scoring silver indicates that students have the skills necessary for 65 percent of profiled jobs.
The detention center is the primary holding facility for all local inmates who are awaiting trial or have been sentenced to less than 90 days. It operates as a direct supervision environment, meaning there are no bars or cells, as in traditional facilities.
County jails are not required to offer education programs.
“With the way the economy is booming, there are many companies looking for people who are willing to work and able to pass a drug test,” said Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller in a personal message to the inmates. “The power of choice is yours. Our hope is these education programs will help reduce our recidivism rates by providing our inmates with training and job skills to help them get a good job.”
Spartanburg Community College has purchased a portable classroom for the Cherokee County jail since the facility does not have classroom space. In January, Mueller confirmed the detention center will start a new Operation Educate program which offers manufacturing and construction job training through virtual reality simulators inside the Cherokee County Detention Center.
SC Works Upstate will partner with employers to ensure the inmates have jobs waiting for them upon release. As a result, 89 percent of Operation Educate participants will receive employment immediately following their release.