Job Corps barred from enrolling new students
Story by Dan Hust
CALLICOON February 8, 2013 Job Corps facilities across the nation including Delaware Valley in Callicoon have been told not to enroll any new students, creating concerns about the federal program’s future.
Last month, the U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL) issued a notice to all 125 Job Corps centers and their private operators that new enrollments would have to be suspended from January 28 to June 30.
“We estimate that, without action, Job Corps was on a path to exceed its operating budget by approximately $61.5 million,” said Ted Fitzgerald, DOL’s regional public affairs director. “We are taking these steps, along with short- and long-term administrative changes, to ensure the program continues to serve the nation’s young people.
“This decision was not made lightly,” he added, “and comes after considering and implementing alternatives to reduce program costs and stay within the budget for this important program.”
Current students are unaffected, but concerns abound that this could substantially harm or even destroy the program, which provides career development education and services to at-risk young people aged 16-24.
The Delaware Valley Job Corps Center has been a part of Callicoon and Sullivan County since 1979, when it first opened inside the former St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary, an historic Franciscan monastery overlooking the Delaware River hamlet.
Overseen by the DOL, it is operated by a contracted company, currently Adams and Associates, Inc. The facility employs around 130 people and serves nearly 400 students year-round.
Center Director Peter LaFleur said he was not authorized to speak on the issue.
But the region’s three Congressional representatives Congressman Chris Gibson and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have spoken up on Job Corps’ behalf, penning letters to the DOL demanding answers.
“The decision to suspend student enrollment at all Job Corps centers will not only be detrimental to students, it will have a significant negative impact on staff and local economies,” said a January 25 letter signed by Gibson and 70 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
“Many centers across the country will be forced to lay off a significant portion of their staffs, and this is far from what these communities need as they are still struggling to recover from unprecedented unemployment and economic instability.”
Schumer and Gillibrand, along with more than a dozen other Senators, pressed the DOL to explain itself, especially since the program dealt with budget shortfalls the year prior as well.
“It is deeply disconcerting the Department [of Labor] has failed to identify the specific causes of the budget shortfall, failed to provide detailed justification to Congress of the need to suspend enrollment, and failed to take action to permanently stabilize the financial condition of the program,” the Senators wrote on January 25. “Having entrusted the Department with $1.7 billion in each of the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to serve 120,000 students, we are dismayed by the Department’s management of the Job Corps program.”
They demanded a detailed analysis and full accounting of the shortfalls and savings, a plan of improvement and a narrative of how decisions were made, but as of Wednesday, the DOL has not replied.
Fitzgerald, however, did indicate to the Democrat that this is not the end of Job Corps.
“We are not abandoning Job Corps centers,” he stated. “During program year 2012 [which runs through June 30, 2013], we estimate that Job Corps will still be able to serve about 56,000 students, even with the temporary suspension of new enrollees.”