As a long-time and since retired Montana School Superintendent, past City Administrator, and Hamilton, Montana resident, I understand the value of programs that invest in educating unemployed, at-risk youth. The opportunity Job Corps provides youth to continue their education and obtain job training skills is a contributing factor in their career success and becoming a part of our community’s local economy. In the Bitterroot Valley we have a Job Corps Center that educates 200+ students in nine career training areas. This center was recently awarded the honor of being the No. 1 USFS Job Corps Center in the nation. This award is a reflection of a dedicated team of both staff and students who have created a positive learning culture with a commitment to excellence.
I am thankful that Jon Tester understands Job Corps’ importance and took swift action to reverse the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration’s (DOL/ETA) suspension of Job Corps enrollment. Jon Tester’s continued dedication to the Job Corps program and the students, staff and local communities it serves will continue to be essential in the coming months.
Congress will soon make pivotal funding decisions that will undoubtedly affect Job Corps, the number of students Trapper Creek will serve, and the number of local staff that are employed. The unfortunate reality, however, is without sufficient funding, fewer students will have the opportunity to receive the training they need to become responsible, tax-paying citizens. Equally unfortunate is the fact that Ravalli County could experience $2.5 million less in economic activity generated by Trapper Creek Job Corps.
Recently, the Office of Inspector General released a report highlighting DOL/ETA’s mismanagement of Job Corps funds. Specifically, the report found that the Department had “erroneously” projected Job Corps costs which led to funding shortfalls and enrollment freezes, and that the minimum level of operations funds Job Corps needs is $1.633 billion. However, the Administration did not request sufficient funding for fiscal year 2014 and instead proposed to implement deep cuts to our center and centers across the nation.
I hope that in the coming months Montana’s Job Corps community and all of Montana’s elected representatives can once again join forces to proactively protect this valuable program and the thousands of people it serves.