Circle of Care focusing on soft skills

Published 10:30 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

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Circle of Care Center for Families opened their new Workforce Development class to the public this week. The class targets “soft-skills” like managing stress, working with others, and listening as the foundation for the more concrete skills of resume-building and interviewing.

Circle of Care is a family resource center that serves the greater Valley area. They have various programs under the umbrella of their five areas of focus: safety, resources, relationships, finances and wellness. The workplace development class falls into finance.

The first cohort were students in the youth and GED program at the center. They had their first lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday. Other members of the public can still sign up for the Thursday classes from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., which can be done on Zoom, or the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. classes.

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The idea all started at the county jail.

“It’s just something that we’re [doing] to try to cut down on the recidivism rate,” said Chambers County Sheriff Jeff Nelson.

Recidivism refers to a relapse of criminal behavior of a person, often after they have been in jail.

Daniel Bates, the instructor and coordinator of the class, knew that working on career skills with the inmates could make a difference.

“[Nelson] realized that through workforce development, we kind of slow the revolving door that is happening in the jail,” Bates said.

Three inmates at the Chamber’s County Detention Facility are currently enrolled in the class, which takes place there.

Since being pitched the idea by the Center’s Executive Director, Jonathan Herston, Bates and his team have spent the better part of a year developing the course.

Bates found a curriculum that had been successful in the Folsom County Prison in Folsom, California. But, after studying it he realized it could not only be useful to the inmate population, but the general public as well. Bates’ class is based on the Life Skills 25 Curriculum developed by their now partner, Pace Learning Systems, and practiced at Folsom.

“This applies to every person; young, old, it doesn’t matter. Right now anyone with a pulse can get a job. Keeping it is the hard part. And it’s the soft skills…that’s what keeps a person employed,” Bates said.

The course will last for 12 weeks, one class per week, culminating in a graduation ceremony. Bates has broken down the course into four-week intervals. The first will focus on self-development and self-esteem. Once the students learn more about their identities the next four weeks will focus on setting and achieving goals. The third interval focuses on some harder skill like resume building. And, the last four weeks will be about relating to other people through interpersonal skills.

Bates wants his students to get the most out of the class. He said,

“I’m telling all of my students that this is not just showing up and you automatically graduate. You have to put forth the effort along the path. You’re doing homework, you are turning in that homework to me, and I am evaluating it.”

For those that miss the sign-up for this 12-week iteration of the course, another one will be offered in late February. Bates said the Center aims to do the course year-round, with a two-week break between each one.