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									                                                         Job Corps: The History, Presence,   1



     Job Corps: The History, Presence, and Impact of an Alternative Education Source

                                    Sarah Mahoney

                                 College of Saint Mary
                                                                  Job Corps: The History, Presence,     2


Throughout history, the United States has been damaged in providing equal educational and

training opportunities for low-income individuals. Within the last 80 years, however, the push

towards resolving poverty with more meaningful efforts to develop programs and government-

based initiatives to assist in this process have become evident, beginning with the Depression-era

Civilian Conservation Corps and, 30 years later, with the Johnson administration‟s passage of the

Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Through this legislation, one of our country‟s longest-

running youth education and training programs was developed—Job Corps. Over the last 45

years, Job Corps‟ residential program has provided instruction and opportunity for over 2 million

qualifying youth. Does the longevity of the program indicate its success or could this be another

flawed piece of legislation that fails to be beaten by opposition and critics? Is it the statistic or

the student who is able to best determine this?
                                                                   Job Corps: The History, Presence,       3

        Job Corps: The History, Presence, and Impact of an Alternative Education Source

        Most American‟s have heard and/or uttered the phrase, “If it isn‟t broke, don‟t fix it.”

What exactly, though, constitutes broken enough to require fixing? Unattractive aesthetic?

Superficial fracture? Questionable structure? Cracked to the core? Moreover, what if the

structure in question IS considered to qualify as broken? What happens then? How is it

determined whether it is broken enough to need demolition and complete reconstruction or just

simple tweaking? Furthermore, what if the break is present, but it does not appear to be that way

because of the measures that people go to make sure that it appears to be functional?

        Today‟s educational system undoubtedly has its advocates and its enemies; each has their

ability to research, evaluate, create, contradict, forecast, and statistically justify their opinions of

the success, or lack thereof, of any given program. Public, charter, home, and faith-based

schools, alternative education programs, and most other structured learning environments have

those individual who will wholeheartedly back or balk at the claimed achievement of its

endeavors. Some individuals look at the educational program from a strictly statistical standpoint

and base their viewpoint solely “on the numbers”; conversely, there will be individuals who have

personally experienced the educational program from either an employee or participant

standpoint, who might not know anything about the statistics and will base their opinion solely

on their experience. After all, perception is reality, whether you are attempting to make sense of

the numbers, with no base of personal experience, or if you are communicating personal

experience, without knowledge of the numbers. Which is a more accurate message of the reality

of the educational practice?
                                                                 Job Corps: The History, Presence,   4

         Within this literature review, I will explore the alternative education program Job Corp,

discussing the historical rise of this program and the research that has been done on various

specifics of the program, showing an intimate look at center life as provided by staff and

graduates of one of America‟s longest-running and largely successful, government funded,

education option for at-risk youth. At the core of Job Corps is the federal administrations and

governmental policies that paved the way for this type of education reform; thus, we will start by

taking a step back to the beginning.

                            Educational & Training Reform in the 1960s

         During the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy spent a significant amount of time

attempting to address the issue of the rising unemployment rate that was occurring in our nation

after World War II. As Kennedy stated to Congress, “Large scale unemployment during a

recession is bad enough, but large scale unemployment during a period of prosperity would be

intolerable” (Kremen, 1974). Recognizing that education of the population was one method of

meeting the needs of employers, Kennedy‟s administration began this reformation by passing the

most significant legislation since the Employment Act of 1946, titled the Manpower

Development and Training Act (MDTA) of 1962, which “endeavored to train and retrain

thousands of workers unemployed because of automation and technological change” (Kremen,


                                       Johnson’s Great Society

         With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson entered the Oval

Office and was met with Kennedy‟s previously begun plans to initiate an “attack on poverty”

(Kantor, 1991). Eager to gain support of the Kennedy administration, but also create his own

Presidential identity and following, Johnson picked up on the war on poverty, developing his
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,    5

initial commitment into the “vision of the Great Society”, which he orated as “a place where the

city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire

for beauty and the hunger for community” (Kantor, 1991). The backbone of producing this

Great Society was set to be the undertaking and implementation of campaigns that would educate

those in poverty, as the Johnson administration viewed this as the critical step in achieving the

defeat of poverty. The Council of Economic Advisors, chaired by Walter Heller, reported to the

President that “Equality of opportunity is the American dream, and universal education our

noblest pledge to realize it. But, for children of the poor education is a handicap race….And

many communities lengthen the handicap by providing the worst schooling for those who need it

most” (Kantor, 1991). Even though Johnson frequently “referred to education as his own

„passport out of poverty‟”, this idea that education could solve the issue of poverty was not a new

thought, as Horace Mann argued this as early as 1848, stating that education “prevents being

poor” (Kantor, 1991).

        The Johnson administration began to show their commitment to resolve the war on

poverty through education reform for the poor and potentially realize the desired Great Society

with the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Job Corps fell under the scope of this

legislation and was modeled after the Depression-era Civilian Concentration Corps (CCC),

which offered education, training, and work opportunities to the vast numbers of men who were

unemployed during the 1930s (Barry, 1999).

       Separate from the Job Corps program, the Johnson administration moved to rectify the

unequal footing created by poverty and differences in education the following year with the

passing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), said to have broken

“through the long-standing opposition to federal aid to education, it also focused attention on the
                                                                 Job Corps: The History, Presence,   6

educational needs of poor children and established federal standards to push school districts

towards more equitable treatment of disadvantaged students” (Kantor, 1991). Despite the passing

of the ESEA and the fervency with which this team of educational and policy intellectuals

thought and fought for the equal education of youth, they were seemingly “unable to make the

education of disadvantaged students a top priority of local school districts,” (Kantor, 1991)

because the law did not specifically address how these tasks were to be accomplished on the

local level, which was where the real resolution planning and application was intended to occur.

Similar to today, this issue continues to haunt our education system— reform plans are

conceived, with the greatest of intentions by teams of scholarly intellectuals who fail to provide

full implementation tactics, thus leaving reform up for interpretation, disregard and potential

failure because those expected to implement the general plan lack the proper guidance,

attachment, incentive, and foresight to do so; therefore, the war on poverty continued.

                                 Workforce Investment Act of 1998

       Between its inception with the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the three decades

that followed, Job Corps continued to offer education and training to enrollees, with funding

being provided by different government work-program relevant legislation. Currently, Job Corps

is funded under Title I-C of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The purpose of the WIA was

“to consolidate, coordinate, and improve employment, training, literacy, and vocational

rehabilitation programs in the United States, and for other purposes” (PL 105-220, 1998). Of the

nearly eighty pages of this law, over fifteen pages are solely devoted to the discussion and

regulations of the Job Corps program, with specific address to purposes, program legal

definitions, eligibility, recruitment, screening, selection, and assignment of participants, Job

Corps center establishment, activities offered and provided by Job Corps centers, counseling and
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,   7

job placement, support, operating plans, and standards of conduct, to name a few (PL 105-220,

1998). According to Targett et al (2007), by consolidating more than 60 federal training

programs into three block grants to states WIA attempted to “overcome many weaknesses in the

current system,” dividing programs and funding between the following areas:

   1. Adult employment and training,
   2. Disadvantaged youth employment and training,
   3. Adult education and family literacy programs

   With this merging brought about by WIA came the concept of the “national system of One

Stop Career Centers (One Stops) which provides key employment resources to communities”

(Targett et al, 2007). One Stop Career Centers exist just as they are titled—as businesses that

provide education, training, placement, counseling, and other services that are critical in the

successful job search and employment process, especially with those struggling to manage all of

these components on their own. While these centers typically have many benefits for the

participant, One Stops, especially those that are for-profit, could be viewed as quickly herding

through multitudes of unemployed individuals, in order to potentially place candidates within

positions with their partner clients, from whom they might receive portions of wages, similar to a

temp-agency (i.e. candidate‟s rate of pay is $10.00/hour, though hiring client is paying

$15.00/hour, which provides a $5.00/hour profit to the career center).

                                        Program Overview

       Job Corps is a residential, government-funded alternative education program, costing the

Department of Labor over $1.6 billion dollars a year (GAO-09-470, 2009) to train the upwards

of 68,000 disadvantaged youth that pass through their centers annually (GAO/HEHS-98-1,

2007). The program continues the earlier efforts of Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson,

and many others, working towards the provision of educational opportunity for low-income and
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,   8

other qualifying individuals, as a means of fighting against the continuation of poverty. With a

mission statement “to guide and support each student through a quality academic, social, and

career technical training program geared to develop self-esteem and job skills” (Denison Job

Corps Resource Guide, 2008) it is no wonder that nearly “65,000 young people enroll each year,

joining the two million youth Job Corps has served since its inception” (Martin & Halperin,

2006). As stated by McConnell and Glazerman (2001) within the WWC Intervention Report

(2008), the annual cost associated with the education of one Job Corps enrollee is estimated at

$19,500. As would be expected, though, depending on the center location, educational programs

in which the students participate, whether or not the participant has their child with them while in

attendance, and other relevant contributing factors, this number can vary. Sherri Clausen, Career

Development Specialist (CDS) with the Denison Job Corps Center, states that their estimated

cost per student is $26,000 annually, though this is 1 of the 7 centers that offer single-parent

residential accommodations.

   According to Martin and Halperin (2006), Job Corps‟ key components include:

      Diagnostic testing of reading and math levels upon entry
      Comprehensive academic programs, including reading, math, high school diploma, and
       General Education Development (GED) certificate attainment
      Workplace communications
      Occupational exploration
      Individualized career planning
      Competency-based vocational training
      Employability, social skills and cultural awareness training
      Regular student progress evaluations
      Lodging, meals and clothing
      Health care (including medical and dental care, substance abuse programs, and health
      Student government and leadership programs
      English as a Second Language instruction
      Basic living allowances
      On-site child care support (available at 22 centers)
                                                                  Job Corps: The History, Presence,   9

         Counseling and related support services
         Driver education
         Recreation programs and nonvocational activities
         Post-program placement and transitional support

          Job Corps Centers are rather self-contained and offer a wide range of services on campus,

including counseling, medical, and dental services, which is likely another contributing factor to

the high annual cost of admission per enrollee. However, with high enrollment numbers, offering

on-site medical services is considered more economical than coordinating visits to off-campus,

private practice facilities. In addition to monetary considerations, there are other benefits of

offering on-center care, which, according to Avery et al (1980), include: “transportation

difficulties are eliminated, waiting time is reduced, record keeping is facilitated, and

communication between the (provider) and those responsible for the administration of the

program is more efficient.”

                            CDSS (Career Development Services System)

          There are four primary stages to the CDSS process for Job Corps participants: Outreach

and Admissions (OA), Career Preparation Period (CPP), Career Development Period (CDP), and

Career Transition Period (CTP) (Denison Job Corps Resource Guide, 2008). Within this section,

I will discuss each of these, as communicated to me within my interview with CDS Clausen


          Prior to even cracking the first book on center, students participate in the Outreach and

Admissions (OA) phase, which includes visiting and touring the Job Corps Center that is under

consideration. According to the GAO, there are three primary factors that “affect Job Corps‟

ability to recruit and retain residential students, particularly female residential students—

availability of career training options, complete and accurate preenrollment information, and
                                                                 Job Corps: The History, Presence,    10

quality of center life” (GAO-09-470, 2009). During their tour, students participate in a large

group information session and Q&A session, walk throughout campus, visiting the trade

classrooms, working environments, and academic areas, dorms, commons and recreation areas.

Because Job Corps is “voluntary, and programs are open-entry, open-exit and self-paced,” it is

absolutely essential for potential enrollees to be aware of the offerings and expectations on

center, in order to prevent drop-outs (American Youth Policy Forum, 2001).

        For those students who decide to enroll within the Job Corps program, the second stage

of CDSS is the 3-week-long Career Preparation Period (CPP), lasting 30 days. Job Corps

students arrive on center on Mondays, unless they are part of the single-parent dorm, which

qualifies them for Sunday arrival. On Tuesday, students are immersed in their introduction to

center, with in-depth discussion of center departments, trades, rules, and other relevant

information for their stay. Students also undergo a full adult physical, including HIV, STD, drug,

hearing, and vision testing. Those students who are found to have drugs in their system are

placed on TEAP, which requires them to participate in drug and alcohol counseling, as well as

return for another drug test 30 days after their original test. If they fail the second drug test, they

are terminated from the program. On Thursday, students participate in trade tours, to better

familiarize themselves with what is offered on center. Within their first week, they are given

TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) tests in reading and math, to determine which level of

coursework that they will be placed on. In addition to completing career and interest tests,

students conduct labor market research, to find out what jobs are available in their area and how

what the typical pay is for each. During their second and third weeks on center, they chose three

trades for hands-on, half-day experiences, choose one to spend a full day in, and then finalize

their trade choice. It is also during CPP that students participate in familiarization with Career
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,   11

Success Standards (CSS), which include courses on building positive personal and professional

relationships, how to spend leisure time, basic leadership, customer service, and participation in

a Money Matters workshop, which teaches the process of budgeting. During their fourth week,

all students are required to take Life Skills, which includes instruction on self-management, basic

information technology, and written and verbal communication.

       The third phase of the program is the Career Development Period (CDP), which is the

actual vocational education and training phase. During this time, those students who are working

towards their GED or high school diploma will have their TABE tests and transcripts evaluated,

to determine which direction would be more practical for students to pursue. Students who are

under 17 must participate in high school diploma coursework, as it is required for students to be

17 to obtain a GED. Something that is different within the Job Corps academic area is that

students are able to work towards obtaining a high school diploma if they‟ve already obtained a

GED, which is typically not possible to do within a traditional high school setting. Because all

programs on center are self-paced, students are able to take as much time as needed or work as

quickly as they are capable, though students have a two-year timeframe in which to complete

their training, unless they are approved for higher levels of training or enroll in college

coursework offered from partner community colleges.

       The final stage of the CDSS process is the Career Transition Period (CTP). This stage

begins 60 days prior to completion of the program and has to be approved by the students Career

Management Team (CMT), which is comprised of the student‟s trade and/or academic

instructors, residential advisor, and counselor. During this period, students participate in a

“You‟re hired!” workshop that includes resume production, mock interviews, active job search,
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,     12

submitting applications, and interview participation. Prior to completion, the student is to secure

and confirm a trade-related position, transportation, housing, and child-care, if applicable.

       This tiered process of development is critical for the student, as they “need opportunities

to progress through successive stages of first building awareness about job and career

possibilities, then exploring personal interests around work and careers, and finally engaging in

specific job and career experiences” (Targett et al, 2007). After leaving center, counseling staff

continues to work with graduates to ensure that they are placed within 9 months of completing or

terminating the program, and are obligated to aftercare of students for 12 months after their

initial placement. According to Pacifici et al (2005), “most teens leaving the care of an agency

are woefully unprepared and unsupported.” Post-placement, most contact is done over the phone

in survey format, though studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of providing

such support online, in order to better offer continued peer community, accommodating support,

and agency contact (Pacifici et al, 2005).


       As discussed, Job Corps is open to males and females between the ages of 16 and 24.

These disadvantaged youth must have been deemed low income, which requires the receipt of

public assistance or having a household income that is at or below the poverty level; in addition,

the potential student must be determined as having at least one other barrier to employment,

which include “being a school dropout, a runaway, a foster child, a parent, or homeless” (GAO-

09-470, 2009). Because students are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, however, there could be

other employment barrier eligibility classifications that provide for acceptance, such as physical,

mental, or other disability.
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,    13

       Both males and females are eligible for participation within Job Corps and most centers

maintain full or near-full enrollment, which could include students living on campus, within the

residential setting, or commuting to the center for classes. Students seeking to enter the program

at a center location that is already at maximum enrollment are sometimes placed on waiting lists,

though this is often more true for male enrollees than for females, likely due to the rather male

dominated training program offerings.

       Of the 122 Job Corps Centers, 7 of them offer single-parent dormitories options, which

allows qualifying young women and men to live on center with their child or children while

working towards their educational and training goals. This unique opportunity allows for young

mothers to raise their children in a safe environment, receive quality child-care and support, and

increase their chances for substantial employment after graduating from the program. According

to Fielding et al (1975), offering these services on center has “a very positive impact on the a

mother‟s motivation to complete her Job Corps program and enhanced her prospects of finding

satisfactory employment.” This daily interaction with the day-care staff and the offering of

parenting skills courses assists these young mothers with their ability to properly care for and

respond to the needs of the children by teaching them: “how to play with children, how to help

children learn, understanding why children are sometimes bad, how to take care of sick children,

how to prepare healthy foods for children, and how to prepare a budget” (Fielding et at, 1975).

       The following charts indicate the 2007 enrollment break-downs for age, ethnic

background, and reading levels upon program entrance, as provided by the Department of Labor,

through the Government Accountaiblity Office (2009).
                                                                    Job Corps: The History, Presence,      14

               Percentage of Job Corps Students in Program Year 2007 by Race or Ethnic Group
                                       3%      2%

                                       17%                                              White
                                       25%                                              American Indian
                                                                                        Asian/Pacific Islander

Table Source: Department of Labor data (GOA-09-470, 2009)
Note: Total does not add to 100 due to rounding

                      Percentage of Job Corps Students in Program Year 2007 by Age
                                       11%                                                     Age 16
                                                     17%                                       Age 17
                                                          22%                                  Age 18
                                                                                               Age 19
                                                                                               Age 20

Table Source: Department of Labor data (GOA-09-470, 2009)
Note: Total does not add to 100 due to rounding

                         Percentage of Job Corps Students in Program Year 2007 by Reading
                                           Level at the Time of Enrollment

                                                                                            Below 5th Grade
                                             12% 20%
                                                                                            5th and 6th Grade
                                         18%                                                7th and 8th Grade
                                                      31%                                   9th and 10th Grade
                                                                                            Above 10th Grade

Table Sources: Department of Labor data (GOA-09-470, 2009)
Note: Totals do not add to 100 due to rounding
                                                              Job Corps: The History, Presence,     15

                                        Programs of Study

       As the earlier visited pie chart indicates, over 50% of Job Corps enrollees enter into the

program reading at below a 6th grade level (GOA-09-470, 2009). Because students who enter the

program are, on average, significantly below their grade level in math and reading, the Job Corps

curriculum focuses heavily on the study of these two subject areas. In order for students to

proceed with the education required for GED or High School diploma achievement, students

must earn a TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) reading and math test scores of 541 and 536,

respectively. Students will be enrolled within the appropriate preparatory level coursework to

teach towards achieving these scores, which would be Essentials of Math (469 and below),

Consumer and Workplace Math (470-519), or Pre-Algebra (520-565) and Essentials of Readings

(419 and below), Beginning Literature (420-519), or Advanced Literature (520-566). The

enrollee will not be allowed to enter either GED or High School diploma program until these

scores are achieved. Students do have an opportunity to test out of reading and/or math upon

enrollment into the Job Corps program, by earning reading and math test scores of 567 and 566,

respectively. Students can, however, begin their trade curriculum, while working on obtaining

higher TABE scores.

       Career Technical Training offered on Job Corps Centers varies by location, regional job

markets, and labor statistics. The majority of programs offered lean more towards male-

dominated professions, such as carpentry, welding, bricklaying, and as automotive repair. As

previously mentioned, there is typically a wait-list for males, while female retention rates

struggle, likely due to the lack of opportunity from center to center for these young women.

There are, however, several more female-leaning programs, such as Certified Nursing

Assistant/CAN, child development, and dental assistant. With over 40 programs of study offered
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,    16

between the 122 locations, there are a variety of career paths available, likely to attract an array

of participants, though individual centers only offer selected options. Students who are interested

in participating in a program that another center has to offer would need to relocate to that center.

       In addition to the Career Technical Training that is offered for students, enrollees often

have the option to pursue a higher level of training, which is typically offered through a local

partnering community college. According to Stanley (2008), “several college presidents are

hoping to build relationships with their local Job Corps center, to take advantage of the U.S.

Department of Labor's effort to push Job Corps participants further along the job-training path.”

Those students who are enrolled within college courses continue to live on center. For instance,

students who completed their CNA certification could continue the education process with a

partner community college to obtain their Registered Nurse (RN) degree.


       Job Corps Centers employ multiple staff members within their Academic and Career

Preparation departments for the purpose of educating program participants in the areas of GED

or High School diploma achievement and/or Career Technical Training. To further explore this

area, I conducted an interview with a current Job Corps female educator who has been working

within their academics program for almost seven years.

       One major difference within Job Corps programs and a traditional high school is that

programs run year-round on center, rather than accommodating with the summers off. This, in

turn, means that teachers within these programs teach year-round too. Educators within the

Academics department are all titles General Academic Instructors and they teach a diverse

curriculum; this particular teacher instructs students in the areas of Essentials of Math, High
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,     17

School General Math, 10th Grade Composition, Learning Lab, TABE Preparation, and GED

Writing (Job Corps Educator, 2010).

       Another difference between Job Corps Centers and traditional high school settings deals

with certification, as educators at Job Corps need only be certified to teach within the state that

their center is located in, unless otherwise specified in the application. The teacher with whom I

conducted the interview completed her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and

teaches, at the very least, middle level coursework to the young adults in the program. She

discusses that there are days when her role within the classroom goes beyond that of a traditional

content teacher and could be more of a counselor, advisor, and mother because there are teaching

opportunities that are not necessarily content related, but integral of the overall success of the

student within their life. When asked how various departments work together to cohesively train

students, she said that “Most departments are just worried about their numbers and their grade

when it comes to the center‟s report card,” discussing that there is little, if any, teamwork

amongst departments for this purpose (Job Corps Educator, 2010).

       She discusses that “there is violence, many have learning disabilities, over half have

failed and dropped-out of their regular high schools, several have been in trouble with the law,

and most are looking for a second chance to do something with their lives.” She feels that

teaching life skills such as manners and appropriate social interaction is just as much part of her

job as the curriculum, stating that “Yes, we do work to improve their math, reading, and writing

skills, but I have come to the conclusion that some of them just won‟t get it.” She follows to say,

though, that students who aren‟t performing are put on academic and/or behavior plans, and that

progress is monitored through evaluation. Students are not given grades within classes, and there
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,    18

are no benchmarks and standards, which makes for two other major differences within Job Corps

and traditional high school or college classrooms.

                                            Center Life

       Job Corps Centers appear as small college campuses and share many similarities:

dormitories, academic learning environments and classrooms, a recreational facility, with

basketball courts, weight room, pool tables, and other activities offered, cafeteria where three

meals a day are served, and commons areas for peer interaction and relaxation. One difference

that can be found, though, is that there is a security office where guests and enrollees have to

sign in and out of campus. Because many participants are under 18, there are strict rules

enforced, regarding off-center trips, hours during which guests can visit, and an approval process

for leaving center for all residents, as Job Corps is responsible and remains accountable for each

student on Center. For many students, this is the beginning for having standards and rules to

follow, which are often very different from those rules (or lack thereof) that are present in the

environment that they are coming from.

       Within the dormitory environment, students are expected to check-in with their

residential advisor no less than three times per day, once at 6:30 a.m., again after the training day

by 4:00 p.m., and again at nightly dorm meetings, which occur at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.,

depending on the day of the week. Additionally, Residential Advisors have to do room checks at

11:00 p.m. or midnight, depending on the day of the week, as well as again at 3:00 a.m. In this

sense, students truly begin to feel as if they are constantly being monitored and checked-up on,

which, for some, creates deviant behavior and verbal confrontation towards the employees.

Additionally, dorms are randomly checked by staff, while students are in class, so each student is

assigned a cleaning duty, within an area crew, to complete daily on their floor of the residence
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,    19

hall. This is another source of conflict for some, who refuse to participate or feel that their

personal living space should be able to be kept as they see fit, not according to center standard.

                                         Refutes or Results?

         Despite the abundance of research that states the overall success of the Job Corps

program, there are still those who have issues with procedures and practices on center. One of

the resounding issues that the GAO has had with Job Corps deals with defects in reporting

measures and overstatement of such information (GAO-02-275, 2002; T-HEHS-98-218, 1998).

Much like traditional public and private schools, Job Corps centers are ranked according to

success rates of students, though the criteria on which these rankings occur are quite different.

According to Sherri Clausen (2010), center report cards are based upon the success of placement

of graduates, GED and/or high school diploma achievement, math and reading scores, and trade

completion. With 65% of this grade being based upon placement of graduates (participant who

completed GED/high school diploma and/or trade) or former enrollees (participant who

separated from the program, by choice or through termination, after 60 days on center) within a

training-related job, it can be logically assumed that quite a bit of the support process would be

centered around this measure. Additionally, determining what is to be considered training-related

work, this can become quite subjective to the respondent or completely stretched to fit. One

wouldn‟t likely see the culinary graduate being hired by McDonald‟s as truly pertaining to their

training, though, according to Clausen (2010), this would actually qualify as a successful job


         Another discrepancy lies within the counseling. As previously discussed, enrollees

partake in counseling services throughout their time on center, whether they are specific to career

placement or general staff counselors. It was found that because of ambiguity and deficiency
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,    20

within the enrollment and screening processes on the recruitment end, a quarter of participants

drop out shortly after their decision to participate in the program because they lack the necessary

motivation, commitment and attitude for completion (GAO/HEHS-98-1, 1997). Additionally,

Bailey (1981) found that various DOL administered programs, including the Job Corps and the

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) programs, where “counseling, testing

career exploration, and developing employability attitudes are necessary…but not sufficient”,

utilize such services to achieve their overall goal of placement of participants; though, due to

“little control over the qualifications of counselors employed” on the local level, limitations

exist. Because there doesn‟t seem to be a cohesive recruitment process amongst contractors,

students who would likely not benefit from participation in the program are pushed through the

cracks, due to seemingly superficial inventories and/or questionnaires, while someone who

would greatly benefit and be extremely successful within the environment might fall through

those same cracks because of an “incorrect” response on the same inventories and/or

questionnaires. For these reasons, on at least one occasion, it has been recommended that Job

Corps Centers rework their enrollment guidance and improve their placement measures, in order

to better serve their retention rates and meet the needs of the participants (GAO/HEHS-98-1,


         Despite limitations and qualification inconsistencies, as some centers require bachelor‟s

degrees in counseling for hiring, while others might only require fifteen hours of social service

related coursework to have been completed, there are undeniable benefits of providing

counseling services to enrollees. According to Philbrick (1975), as stated within Action Research

in Department of Labor Programs Containing Counseling and Guidance Components (1981),

“counseled applicants have better than twice the chance of being placed that uncounseled
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,   21

applicant.” In providing these services and, ultimately, hoping to teach these skills to students

during the placement process, one might wonder whether such extensive hand-holding could be

considered somewhat of a crutch, making it difficult to repeat these steps at a later time, when

center staff is not available to provide “consistent and direct representation and negotiation

communication supports with employers for this young person” (Targett et al, 2007).

       Similar to traditional high school and college settings, drug and alcohol usage is an issue.

Because of the strictly enforced zero tolerance policy associated with using either of these within

this residential program setting, the Job Corps graduate interviewed (Job Corps Graduate, 2010)

likened this drug trade as similar to that one might experience in a jail or prison setting, with the

cost of prescription medication, which are easier to conceal, like xanax and hydrocodone costing

two to three times more than typical street-value. However, the structure, educational

opportunities, and services offered by Job Corps have been found to assist those who arrive on

center with drug problems in the following ways:

   1. Residential training and post-graduation transfer provides a relocation for enrollees that
      affords them an opportunity to get out of their normal living environment
   2. With hundreds of students on each campus and small enrollment classes, Job Corps
      provides peer groups who can positively encourage one another towards change
   3. Job Corps works to motivate and train enrollees on how to permanently change his or her
      lifestyle, which can assist in permanently decreasing or ending their drug use.

       With over 75% non-white enrollment, another disparity of the Job Corps educational

experience, which is actually similar to that of traditional public schools, is the

underrepresentation of different racial backgrounds within the staff. The graduate interviewed for

this paper stated that it would benefit the educational experience of the students more if Job

Corps would hire “staff that the students can relate with, people with different pasts and different

backgrounds,” going on to say that “the staff always talks about being multiculturally diverse
                                                             Job Corps: The History, Presence,    22

and had very limited minority staff members” (Job Corps Graduate, 2010). The same graduate

(2010) felt that one extremely negative bi-product of the predominantly white staff and largely

non-white enrollment was “the racism and prejudice that occurred on center,” which he felt

“certain faculty refused to acknowledge.” He further remarked that when students attempted to

discuss these matters with staff that “the situation seemed to always get swept under the rug and

those who spoke their mind were often terminated and sent home.”

                                     Does Job Corps Work?

       The discussion over and statistics proving whether or not Job Corps programs can be

considered as successful are ranging, though do read as seemingly positive overall. Study

findings also seem to depend on the timeframe during which they were conducted because, as

would be expected with any educational system, programs don‟t lend themselves to duplicate

results from year to year. According to the United State Government Accountability Office

(GAO) (GAO-09-470, 2009):

               Few evaluative studies have been conducted over the years to determine whether
       Job Corps is cost-effective, and, when these studies have been done, the results have been
       mixed….In its report issued in 2001, Mathematica concluded that Job Corps was cost-
       effective in that the value of the benefits exceeded the costs of the program by about
       $17,000 per participant over his or her lifetime. Among its conclusions, Mathematica
       reported that Job Corps: substantially increased the education and training services that
       youths receive, improved these youths‟ skills and educational attainment, generated
       employment and earnings gains, significantly reduced involvement with crime, was cost-
       effective despite its high costs, and was a good investment.
               Mathematica issued a follow-up report in 2006 that examined the results of the
       1994- to 1996-study group over a longer period. In this report, Mathematica analyzed
       earnings and employment rates through 2004. While Mathematica found that some of the
       program results reported in 2001 persisted, such as improving educational attainments
       and reducing involvement in crime, overall earnings gains did not persist. Mathematica
       concluded that the benefits to society of Job Corps were smaller than the program costs,
       but acknowledged that the results reflect the program as it operated in 1994 to 1996 and
       not necessarily as it operates today.
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,   23

       In reading these findings above, it would seem to provide a mixed and/or rather

inconclusive benefit to the consistent benefit of the program. However, some benefits might not

be as easily ascertained through simply put number to hypothesis. Because this program provides

a residential environment in which to accomplish the task of educating their students, this

program is going to have the cost associated with housing, feeding, and caring for these young

adults, but, for most of these students, these elements have been barriers for achieving these tasks

in their regular environments. Providing this home-away-from-home, with structure and

unbending rules, allows students to focus on their education and training, while engaging in an

explicit and hidden curriculum that is going to be imperative to their successful completion of

the program and contribution to society. Many of the implicit elements that students are learning

on center are going to be just as important to their lives as their certifications and diplomas.

       There are many organizations that focus on and share the value of alternative education

programs for disadvantaged youth and praise their effects on drop-out recovery and overall

contributions to the advancement of this population of young people. American Youth Policy

Forum (AYPF, 2001) highlighted many of these programs, stating that the benefits and value of

Job Corps, in particular, lie in their comprehensive services, residential living, and investment in

human capital:

      Comprehensive Services: Job Corps programs provide intensive, comprehensive services
       encompassing all aspects of a participant‟s life. Researchers found that the more services
       received, the more positive impacts were recorded over the duration of the study
      Residential Living: Residential living provides an opportunity to address and correct a
       range of problems experienced by disadvantaged youth in a structured setting that they
       generally lack in their own homes and neighborhoods. Participants receive supervision,
       work on bonding and relationships with adults and peers, are given responsibility for
       activities that benefit the group as a whole and have leadership opportunities. This 24-
       hour a day reinforcement of positive social values contributes greatly to the long-term
       positive impact of Job Corps.
                                                                Job Corps: The History, Presence,      24

       Investments in Human Capital: Because Job Corps programs do not provide one-time
        only benefits, but rather contribute to an individual‟s overall level of human capital, the
        effects persist over time. Investments in education, job training, health and employment
        history become part of an individual‟s permanent store of assets.

        (AYPF, 2001)

Specifically, the organization found that “Job Corps participants experienced the following

annual gains, averaged over a four-year post-program observation period: three weeks more

employment per year, $655 more earnings (over a 15 percent annual increase in then current

dollars), five times greater probability of earning a high school diploma or GED (25 vs. 5

percent), nearly one week more college attendance (nearly double that of comparison group

members), and one less week of serious health problems” (AYPF, 2001).

        While numbers are always relevant and provide the proof that is necessary for continued

funding and enrollment efforts, the story and experience of those who have been personally

involved in Job Corps are as equally important because they are the reason for and reality of this

program and what it can mean for their lives.


        One graduate‟s story reads more like that of a movie script than that of a lived reality.

From the moment that I met him, while working as a Residential Advisor, I knew that he was

someone with whom I would spend a lot of time talking, learning more about his past and trying

to encourage him towards his future. With an authentic, infectious smile, he has the ability to

make friends quickly, though isn‟t quite that interested or trusting, at least not in the beginning.

We became friends, though, and he shared with me (and allowed me to share with you) some of

his story:
                                                                 Job Corps: The History, Presence,    25

       Before I went to Job Corps, I moved to Davenport, Iowa, from Chicago, Illinois. I was a gang
       member—part of the Latin Kings. I was into everything: sold drugs, robbed people, and did
       violent things to people. These actions and type of lifestyle made me an all around unsavory
       character. All of these things started at a young age and I wasn’t on a path to anywhere but
       prison or death. I did graduate from West High School in Davenport, though. After that, I went
       back to Chicago and continued my life as I preferred. I did work; however, most of the jobs were
       in restaurants. My main source of income was trafficking and selling drugs. I was making more
       in a few days than most people make in a whole year. After being shot at, stabbed, jumped,
       robbed and beat by police officers, it just gave me a reason for revenge. The time I did have an
       eye opener was when I was robbed by my own gang—my own “brothers”. My world flipped
       upside down. I was 21 when this happened, but I still remained loyal to my cause—I called it
       “360 degrees of Kingism”. I still had my money and my connect, so I kept on hustling. It was
       never the same after that. I did what I call being a “jack boy” and robbed an underground
       gambling ring on the North side of Chicago. It was normal for me to do this stuff, but this time
       there were federal badges in the bag when going through the wallets. That put me and my
       family up $32,700 dollars. I decided to go back come back to Iowa afterwards, in case of any
       heat from the law. I had been back only two days and was already in jail. This time I was in
       Iowa, though, and they tried to hit me with the maximum on my charge—2 years. The charge
       was rioting, for gangbanging. Then the Latin Kings I was with from Davenport snitched on me
       and told the cops I sold drugs and was the leader of the Chapter here, so I was finished. I plead
       out and handled my consequences to get in the clear and decided to go to Job Corps.

       At 23, he had already lived more life than many of his peers and I knew that, if he chose

to do so, he would be able to use this past to inspire and relate to others. While on center, he was

the resident barber for many male students. In addition to his ability to create a loyal male and

female friend following, he managed to get intimately involved with an Hispanic female staff

members, who was 22-years-old. However, this was not the only forbidden activity that this

young man would get involved with on center. He admitted to regularly smoking marijuana on

campus and was threatened with termination when he brought and consumed alcohol on campus

with fellow, of-legal-age students. While he does feel that the program has a lot of things that it

should work on, he also stated:

       Job Corps changed my life because it gave me the opportunities and the resources I
       needed to change me. It also made me realize that I wanted nothing to do with people
       who had no intention of bettering themselves…It helped me make my mind up that I
       didn’t want to be a Latin King anymore. Had I not went to Job Corps, I am positive that I
       would have ended up dead or in prison. Out of all the friends or “brothers” that I had,
       there are only 3 who are not in prison or dead. That is a very frightening thing to see
                                                              Job Corps: The History, Presence,    26

       what my future could have been like. Now I live in East Moline, Illinois, and am currently
       going to college at Blackhawk. I am also working for the YMCA as a Para-educator. I
       work with children with special needs and eventually want to be a teacher, mainly
       because I know that with my past I can relate to the kids who are as troubled as I was—to
       show them that you don’t have to be involved in criminal activities to have nice things
       and be someone.


       How does one judge the success of an educational program? Is its story held within the

numbers that define it or within the experiences of those who have lived it? It‟s hard to choose

and use only one, when attempting to determine the impact of a program like Job Corps. On one

hand, the intent and longevity of the program speak volumes about its positive purpose and

inherent strength. On the other hand, to discover and discuss the inconsistencies and issues of the

program communicate it as relatively flawed and concerned more with achievement of reported

numbers than with fulfilling magnanimous mission statements. When I began to further

investigate the history of this program and attempt to build upon my own personal experiences as

a staff member with this program with facts and figures, I began to see that I am not the only

individual to question the inner-workings that make this program tick. It is incredibly comforting

to know that organizations like the United States Government Accountability Office exist, in

order to ensure that the large amount of annual government dollars that are spent on this and

many other programs, for that matter, are not being wasted or ineffectively distributed.

       While my initial interpretation of program inconsistencies—lackluster counseling

services, male-dominance in trade offerings, inappropriate and unsupportive actions of

employees, overstated success rates, and service for the purpose of attaining numbers, rather than

with a deeper concern for the welfare and future of the participants—were seemingly confirmed

through my research, I began to realize that similar issues exist within traditional school systems
                                                               Job Corps: The History, Presence,   27

and that to assume that these factors make it a completely valueless program would dispute the

general success and impact that it has had on the lives of millions of program participants. For

me, this would have been an unreasonable assumption to formulate. As this review has indicated,

despite many components that make Job Corps appear to be somewhat broken, there are

overwhelmingly positive contributions that this program evidences, which have allowed it to

continue for over 45 years. Just as education within traditional high school and university

settings have progressed throughout their history, Job Corps has proven to similarly advance

their program and educational opportunities for their original enrollee demographic—the

disadvantaged youth. While it might not be perfect, as long as Job Corps continues to respond to

the concerns expressed by their students, staff, and relevant governing bodies, in order to

determine how to best serve their continually evolving participant demographic, this program

will certainly maintain its position as a successful alternative education source.
                                                              Job Corps: The History, Presence,   28


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