One of the oldest social programs in the federal government today, the Job Corps tries to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds complete their high school education and get a good start in the working world. The program has trained and educated two million individuals since it was first established during the Great Society era of the 1960s. Job Corps participants receive not only job assistance and education, but also room and board during their time in the program, which can last up to two years. In spite of its altruistic mission, the Job Corps has long been a source of debate between liberals and conservatives over the program’s continuation and funding.
The Job Corps was created during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 as part of Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society initiatives that sought to expand economic and social opportunities for Americans, especially minorities and the poor. A product of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the Job Corps was first set up by Sargent Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family who ran many of Johnson’s social programs. Shriver modeled the Job Corps on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, which provided room, board and employment to thousands of unemployed people.
During its early years, the Job Corps struggled with a high dropout rate, management disputes, and hostility from local communities. The program also had its political detractors. President Richard M. Nixon shuttered many Job Corps centers, trimmed the program’s budget, and moved it to the Manpower Administration in the Department of Labor. Residential services were curtailed in favoring of having participants commute from their homes, while greater emphasis was placed on technical training instead of general remedial education.
When President Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981, supporters of the Job Corps feared the program would be eliminated as part of Reagan’s attempts to slash federal spending and eradicate programs that helped the poor. However, the Job Corps managed to survive the Reagan years intact.
When Republicans took control of Congress in the mid-1990s, the Job Corps was targeted for criticism. Opponents claimed the program was costly and inefficient, requiring $26,000 per student while graduating fewer than 15% of participants. A 1995 bill tried to end the federal Job Corps and turn control over to the states. The effort failed, but cutbacks were implemented, resulting in the closure of some centers. The Clinton administration tried to bolster the reputation of the Job Corps by commissioning a study of the program, but the report did more harm than good as its methodology was criticized and resulted in a lawsuit by those who participated in the study.
Under President George W. Bush, the Job Corps struggled to survive. Administration officials in the Department of Labor have tried to axe funding for the program, only to have it restored by Congress. In March 2006, the Office of Job Corps became part of the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Labor.
History of the Job Corps (Answers.com)
Stopping the Labor Department Planned Destruction of Job Corps (by Scott Lilly and Angela Styles, Center for American Progress)
Survivor of the Budget Cuts (by Ellie McGrath, Time)
Part of the Department of Labor (DOL), the Job Corps seeks to help disadvantaged youths gain employment and/or complete their high school education. The Job Corps program has trained and educated two million individuals since it was first established. Approximately 62,000 young people each year participate in the program through 125 Job Corps centers throughout the country. A new center in Manchester, New Hampshire, is scheduled to open in 2013, and a total of 122 centers are expected to be operational that year.
According to the program, the typical Job Corps student is an 18-year-old high-school dropout who reads at a seventh-grade level, belongs to a minority group, and has never held a full-time job. Approximately 75% of Job Corps enrollees are members of minority groups, 75% are high-school dropouts, and more than 34% are from families on public assistance.
Participants in the program are provided housing while they work towards learning a trade, completing their education and gaining employment. Participants are paid a monthly allowance which varies depending on how long an individual remains in the program. The Job Corps also provides career counseling and transition support to its graduates. To enroll in Job Corps, students must meet the following requirements:
All Job Corps services are provided through the office’s Career Development Services System. Upon joining Job Corps, each student works with staff to develop an individualized Personal Career Development Plan. Students receive hands-on career training in more than 100 occupational areas including health occupations, construction-related fields, culinary arts, business, and technology-related industries. They can also participate in on-the-job training at real work sites through work-based learning opportunities. Students have the opportunity to earn a high-school diploma or GED and learn employability and independent-living skills.
While enrolled in the program, students receive housing, meals, basic medical care, and biweekly living allowances. The Job Corps also has strict rules against drugs and violence. Since the corps is a self-paced program and lengths of stay vary, students may remain enrolled for up to two years.
Approximately 90% of Job Corps graduates go on to careers in the private sector, enlist in the military or move on to higher education or advanced training programs. Graduates receive transitional support services, including help locating housing, child care and transportation, for up to 18 months after they leave the program.
From the Web Site of Job Corps
Of the 125 Job Corps centers located in the United States, 77% of them (94) are run by just four private companies: Career Systems Development Corporation, Management and Training Corporation, MINACT and Res-Care. The remaining 28 centers, known as civilian conservation centers, are located on federal lands and are operated by the Agriculture and Interior departments.
The largest Job Corps contractor is Management and Training Corp., which operates 25 centers nationally, including centers in San Bernardino, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Atlanta, Georgia.
The second largest is Res-Care, operator of 15 centers, including ones in Phoenix, Arizona; Tucson, Arizona; the Bronx, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Miami, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Treasure Island in San Francisco, California. Res-Care’s contract for the Miami center totaled $13.5 million, the Tulsa contract was for $14 million, and Treasure Island brought in a trove worth $38.6 million.
Career Systems Development Corp. runs 11 centers, including those in Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose in California; New Orleans, Louisiana; and St. Paul, Minnesota.
MINACT runs 11 centers in nine states including those in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and St. Louis, Missouri.
Other, smaller contractors that run Job Corps centers include:
Contracts in FY2011 totaled more than $9 million to date, including $1.8 million paid to the Center for Disease Detection, and $1.7 million paid to the Transportation Communication Union, and $3.1 million placed in the UBC National Job Corps Training Fund.
Every two years the Advisory Committee on Job Corps examines the Job Corps program and releases its findings in a published report. The committee includes representatives from industry, academia, labor, career technical training, workforce development, faith-based, and community organizations, law enforcement and other sectors. Its latest report, published in April 2008, made 22 recommendations of varying importance for Job Corps leaders to consider.
Key recommendations were:
Simplify and Streamline OMS
Job Corps’ Outcomes Measurement System (OMS) is designed for Job Corps staff to assess their work in helping students throughout the Career Development Services System. The committee concluded that OMS was “cumbersome, complex and confusing and needs to be revamped.” Advisory members recommended the system be revised to make it “simpler, more streamlined, easier to understand and able to collect pertinent data that supports strategic and tactical decision-making at national, regional, corporate and center levels.”
Re-evaluate Common Outcomes Measures
Job Corps’ parent, the Department of Labor, is required by the Office of Management and Budget to collect information that is “not collectible,” causing Job Corps staff to waste time trying to meet OMB requirements. The committee recommended that labor officials find ways to pool information it collects for various reports to reduce the time spent on this activity so more time is available for student outcome improvement.
Align Training with Industry and Educational Requirements
Job Corps needs to do a better job of shaping its career and technical education training experiences in order for students to gain the real-world experience they need to compete in the job market. The committee recommended that program officials align Job Corps training with nationally recognized industry standards and educational institution
A Wise Investment or a Waste of Money?
For almost as long as it has been around, the Job Corps has sparked debate over the program’s success and effectiveness. Conservatives and Republican lawmakers have usually been the most vocal critics of Job Corps, often calling for reductions, if not outright elimination of the program altogether. Democrats and labor representatives have been staunch supporters of the program and have managed to keep it alive even during periods of Republican presidencies.
Supporters of the Job Corps insist the program has been a wise investment of federal dollars over the past 40 years. Their assertions, as echoed in the report, “Does Job Corps Work?” (pdf) are that:
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, the Job Corps is a waste of money and should be closed down. Despite its lofty goals of helping young people advance their educational and vocational opportunities, the program simply does not produce results in a cost-effective manner.
The Heritage Foundation cites results from three sources—the 2001 “National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes,” the 2001 “National Job Corps Study: The Benefits and Costs of Job Corps” and the 2003 “National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data” (pdf) —to point out how much is spent to achieve few results. In fact, the think tank argued that some Job Corps data indicated that the program made things even worse for some participants in terms of income. Citing statistics from the 2003 study, The Heritage Foundation claimed that young women without children who participated in Job Corps earned less money after graduating than similar women who never participated in the program.
Job Corps: A Consistent Record of Failure (by David B. Muhlhausen, Heritage Foundation)
A longtime job training executive, Edna Primrose has served as the national director of the Job Corps program since March 2010.