Earlier this summer Missouri based newspaper and online new source The Missoulian posted the following story in support of their local Job Corps center. The article highlights the contributions and connections Job Corps has made in the Bitterroot Valley community.
MISSOULIAN EDITORIAL: Trapper Creek Job Corps deserves support
The folks at Trapper Creek Job Corps have much to celebrate this month.
For one, next week the job corps center based in the Bitterroot Valley will end a seven-month enrollment freeze. It had been forced to drastically reduce enrollment since January from 224 to just 154 students – the lowest it’s ever been, according to center director Linda Guzik.
For another, it was during this freeze that the modest facility located along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River was named the national Center of the Year by the U.S. Forest Service Job Corps Executive Team.
The Trapper Creek Job Corps center earned this distinction for its exceptional graduation rates and other outstanding performance results.
“ … the Trapper Creek Job Corps Center has demonstrated exceptionally high performance and teamwork,” the award explains. “The center has developed strong community partnerships and was statistically ranked as the No. 1 Forest Service Job Corps center in the nation.”
Indeed, a whopping 92 percent of its graduates have found work in their preferred trades, joined the military or gone on to pursue higher education. Of those who landed a job in their industry, the average earned wage was $11.21 an hour.
This is an especially notable, and valuable, achievement given the otherwise dismal youth employment numbers in the United States. The so-called “scarred generation” are those, generally between the ages of 16-24, who had the misfortune of first entering the work force during a recession. This generation is experiencing the highest rate of unemployment for their age group in more than six decades, a factor that puts them at increased risk of unemployment and reduced wages throughout their working lives.
Job Corps exists to support this same population. Its 125 centers throughout the nation offer youth between the ages of 16 and 24 the chance to turn their lives around by providing free job training and life skills. Each year, an estimated 60,000 students take part in Job Corps.
Unfortunately, the program has been beset by budgeting and management problems over the last few years that left it facing a budget deficit of more than $60 million. In response, the Labor Department took the unprecedented step of ordering enrollment freezes on three separate occasions over a period of eight months.
The latest freeze came in January but was lifted in April for all Job Corps centers except the roughly two dozen run by the U.S. Forest Service. Unfortunately, that includes the Trapper Creek Job Corps.
Now, at last, the Trapper Creek center has been given permission to begin enrolling new students.
However, some estimates peg the number of students turned away from the nation’s Job Corps centers at 10,000. Additionally, the Labor Department is still expecting future enrollment to be reduced by about 20 percent.
That’s a poor direction to take this program at a time when the nation’s youth clearly need more, not less, help starting their careers.
And it’s an especially backward move to make given the proven value of job training centers like the award-winning one at Trapper Creek. The Trapper Creek Job Corps deserves kudos for its good work, and better budget support for increasing its enrollment – so that even more youth can get a strong start on their future careers.