'It taught me perseverance': Young offenders gain workforce skills with new DOC jobs program

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Young men at the Racine Youthful Correctional Facility are gaining new skills to help them succeed after their release. On Thursday, Dec. 9, CBS 58 toured their new mobile manufacturing lab that offers the men college credit.

Inside the Mechatronic Lab, potential is at its peak.

"This is involved in making your toothpaste, food, everything," said 24-year-old Tyler Wells.

The mobile unit teaches manufacturing to young men in at the Racine Youthful Correctional Facility.

"At first it was hard but it got easier as I went along because I enjoy doing stuff that I'm strong at doing," said 21-year-old Lashawn Franklin.

Taught by Gateway Technical College staff, the program offers college credit and could lead to apprenticeship opportunities.

"Imma[sp] be frank with you, all my plans were very non-social, they're criminal in nature when I got released," added Wells. "I came to this program, my entire change of mind completely changed. It taught me perseverance and really taught me to have hope for the future."

This correctional facility rehabilitates young men between 18 to 24 years old -- a core group for change, believes Warden Jeleslie Taylor.

"Each young man here has a story, and you have to be able to understand and take the time to listen," said Taylor.

Amy Pechacek is secretary-designee for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

She said employee shortages are leading employers to seek "alternative qualified talent."

The worker gap is happening for many reasons, including pandemic-induced early retirement.

"And that is why connecting with the Department of Corrections, where they are releasing 9,000 individuals, every year, back into the community is so important," said Pachecek.

Guests also toured the facility's new jobs lab where the young men in DOC can get a jump start on their job search, build a resume and apply for jobs.

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