Improving Job Corps
Last year, Job Corps observed its 50thanniversary—a milestone for a program that embodies the core American value that no matter who you are or where you come from, you should have the opportunity to succeed. Today, there are 125 Job Corps centers across the country, providing a second chance to disadvantaged young people and changing their lives, through education and job training.
A majority of the students immediately go on to a career, enter the military or enroll in higher education. More than 109,000 students were served in program year 2013, with 70 percent of graduates joining the workforce or enlisting in the military and more than 12 percent enrolling in continuing education programs. More than 60 percent completed a Job Corps career technical training curriculum.
And, like all long-running and successful programs, Job Corps is always seeking ways to improve. In 2014, the Employment and Training Administration undertook a review of Job Corps oversight and accountability systems. An ETA team assessed monitoring systems and procedures at all six regional Job Corps offices, examined policies and procedures, and toured Job Corps centers across the country to meet with students and employees.
It was inspiring to meet with students and hear them talk about their current training courses and their future career plans. We met with numerous dedicated center administrators, counselors, instructors and other staff committed to their students’ success.
We also found areas where improvement is needed—in our Job Corps program offices and at centers—and we are making those improvements. During the visits, we assessed the extent to which Job Corps oversight is ensuring high performance, strong student outcomes, and safe and secure centers.
Some of the changes underway are more urgent than others, but there is nothing more important than maintaining a safe learning environment for Job Corps students. We are deeply concerned about instances of violence, drug use and other misconduct that impacts students and their families. Job Corps has a zero tolerance policy that requires students to be expelled for certain serious infractions, and that policy will be strictly enforced. Job Corps operators need to act immediately to respond to violent student behavior and other incidents and, when appropriate, to expel students or request assistance from law enforcement.
We will not hesitate to take appropriate action toward operators that do not make student safety a priority. For example, Job Corps declined to renew a contract at the North Texas Job Corps center last year because of concerns about student discipline. We are committed to holding contractors that operate centers to high standards, and we are grateful for their support in improving performance and accountability in the Job Corps program. We are committed to doing a better job of creating a safe and secure learning environment for the thousands of young people who flow through our centers each year.
The students at Job Corps centers are the heart of the program. As a teenager, Sergio A. Gutierrez was drifting into a life on the streets and became, as he has written, “something of a hoodlum.” His life turned around when he enrolled in Job Corps, at an Oregon center. He is most proud of the GED he earned “because it represented a new start in my life.” He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Boise State University and a law degree at the University of California Hastings Law School. Today, he is a judge on the Idaho Court of Appeals. He also is involved in youth programs, mentoring at-risk young people.
Over the last 50 years, Job Corps has sought to expand opportunity for the nation’s young people. Every center offers state-accredited high school diplomas as well as industry-recognized credentials that equate to post-secondary education. As Job Corps changes with the times, it gives students the opportunities to succeed in technology, health care and other high-demand sectors of our economy.
And we will continue to make the improvements that build on Job Corps’ success and create brighter futures for thousands of young people across America.