CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Entering adulthood is a challenge for most young people. Entering adulthood and looking for work with a criminal record is even more difficult.
That's the reality for hundreds of youthful offenders who are cycling through the court system in Charlotte. Last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police arrested 1,217 youthful offenders 16 and 17-years-old.
The Department referred 276 of them the past two years to youth diversion programs in lieu of arrest.
As police and city leaders work to address juvenile crime and opportunity, there's a growing emphasis on helping young people cycle out of crime and make better decisions.
A job fair hosted by the City's Housing and Neighborhood Services Department is one response to the problem. More than 20 employers are participating to help 16 to 24-year-olds with a previous conviction or pending charge find employment.
"Everyone deserves an opportunity," said James Ormond, owner of Charlotte landscaping company The Ormond Group.
Ormond will be participating in the job fair for the first time. He says it couldn't come at a better time, as fall is their busiest season and he is looking to hire new employees.
"We talk a lot in our company about second chances. We are a second-chance employer," said Ormond. "Doesn't mean we're a third, fourth, and fifth chance employer, but we want to give people who maybe have an obstacle to find employment an opportunity to at least interview."
Ormond has had success in the past by hiring people with previous charges who have experienced homelessness. It's why he believes the city's job fair is another good opportunity to reach out and help remove barriers.
"This is a great time for someone to join our team," he said. "They're jobs that don't require a ton of skill to get in, but we're positioned to train for the future."
Officer Brent Hartley, who works with Community Engagement for CMPD, says their diversion program and this job fair gives young offenders a chance to be more successful members of society.
"This will offer them an opportunity they may not see elsewhere," said Officer Hartley.
The job fair takes place Friday, August 25, at 500 Dalton Avenue at the Charlotte Fire Department Headquarters.
Those interested in registering can visit http://bit.ly/CLTYouthCareerFair.