The News & Observer recently wrote about an important charitable provider of job training here in Wake County, StepUp Ministry. StepUp reaches out to the hardest to employ — the homeless, those with criminal pasts, drug addicts, etc. — and gives them job training that includes life skills and what are called soft skills. One of the successfully employed graduates of the program tells that she was taught “personal responsibility, to set goals for herself, and gave her job-hunting skills, including how to dress appropriately for interviews and work.”

Longtime Locke readers may recall hearing about StepUp from my Spotlight report on job training. I stressed the importance on soft-skills training and hailed excellent returns on StepUp’s program. From the N&O it sounds like StepUp is continuing to excel:

Last year, 385 people graduated from StepUp’s program and so far, just like Perry, 358 people have found jobs, said Linda Nunnallee, the ministry’s associate director. Of those 358, 226 had criminal backgrounds, 97 were homeless, 85 were veterans, and 108 struggled with substance abuse. They now work in such fields as construction, customer service, food service and healthcare, with pay averaging $9.88 an hour. …

Don Camden, vice president and eastern regional manager of Cargill, which produces food and agricultural products, has made two hires from StepUp. Camden said he likes the training he has observed in the nonprofit’s job readiness courses.

“It’s not just résumé writing and interviewing skills,” he said. “They teach them how to relate to people you work for, how to take orders and work with certain co-workers even if you don’t agree with them.

“It’s a dose of reality. They truly come in ready to work. They understand they may not be in charge, but they come in and work effectively in a team environment.”

As for his StepUp hires, he calls them “very good employees.”