Job Corps launches ready-to-work pilot program

Job Corps launches ready-to-work pilot program
Contract awarded to test innovative education and training models

WASHINGTON – A pilot program developed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration on how best to provide integrated academic and technical training to economically disadvantaged youth through the Job Corps program will begin operations this fall.

The program’s launch at the Cascades Job Corps College and Career Academy, in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, follows Vice President Biden’s call for ETA to test educational models for disconnected youth, with a focus on combining blended academic and occupational training and work experience in high-demand fields through the Job Corps program. The vice president outlined his goals in the report, “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity” in 2014.

Researchers have found that while Job Corps increases education levels and earnings of program participants, it has been most beneficial to youth older than 20. The pilot will include an evaluation that will inform how Job Corps can strengthen and improve services to disconnected youth, including teen-agers. 

“Job Corps represents the core American value that no matter who you are or where you come from, you should have the opportunity to succeed,” Lenita Jacobs-Simmons, the national director of Job Corps, said. “Vice President Biden has provided us with great support for this initiative. Job Corps has improved the lives of millions of young people over the last half-century, and the launch of this pilot will allow us to take a giant step forward in expanding opportunity for many more young people in the future. ”

ETA awarded a contract for operations, outreach and enrollment services at the Cascades center on June 6, 2016, with the contract scheduled to start today. The start-up center will offer career and technical education in two career pathways – health care and information technology – with a focus on preparation for college enrollment. The pilot also seeks to ensure economic self-sufficiency, and students will be trained in health care and IT occupations that provide a “living wage,” as defined by state or geographic placements. The pathway training seeks to help participants earn employer-recognized industry credentials. Industry internships will also be a part of the learning experience.

The academic program will be free to economically eligible youth ages 16 to 21. Students can stay at the center for up to three years, a year longer than at regular Job Corps centers.

Students from Washington State, Oregon and Idaho will begin to arrive at the center in fall 2016. The pilot will begin with training for about 300 students; if the pilot meets certain benchmarks and its design shows promise, Cascades may accept applicants nationwide.

ETA awarded the contract for the pilot program to Adams & Associates, Inc., based in Reno, Nevada, with corporate sites in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Columbia, Maryland. The company is a prime operator at 17 Job Corps centers in 19 locations around the country. The contractor will operate the training program along with a residential community living program for all enrolled students.

A contract to evaluate the pilot program has been awarded to ABT Associates Inc., a global research company, and MDRC, a nonprofit organization with extensive experience in the evaluation of projects and programs.

Across the nation, Job Corps enrolls approximately 50,000 low-income youth, ages 16 to 24, each year. More than 80 percent of its graduates go on to join the workforce, enlist in the military or enroll in higher education. While in Job Corps, students earn a high school diploma or equivalent and receive training in one of more than 100 career-training areas. Since its founding in 1964, about 2.7 million young Americans have participated in the program. Today, there are 126 Job Corps centers in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

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