Recognizing the opportunities provided to young people at the Exeter Job Corps and the role of the national program in training our workforce, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) is asking the U.S. Department of Labor to reconsider its decision to suspend enrollment at Job Corps Centers throughout the country. As of this week, Exeter and all other centers can no longer register new students, and the Department has given no indication that Centers will be able to recoup those student slots on July 1, the beginning of the 2013 program year.
Job Corps, authorized by the Workforce Investment Act, is a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that helps young people ages 16 through 24 improve the quality of their lives through career, technical and academic training. Students can take courses in classes such as Business, Construction, Culinary Arts, Health Occupations, IT, and Manufacturing.
Last year, Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, highlighted the outstanding work of the Exeter Center's culinary department, which produced Rhode Island's first team to compete at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's nationwide cooking competition.
"[The announcement] will not only be detrimental to students, it will have a significant negative impact on staff and local economies," wrote Langevin and a group of his colleagues to Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris last week prior to the policy going into effect. "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."
The full letter, pasted below, urged Harris to "instead work with center directors and operators to develop a reasonable, alternative cost savings plan to recapture the 2012 program year's budget shortfall." Langevin and the 22 other signatories of the bipartisan letter have yet to receive a reply.
"There should be no higher priority of policymakers and this Administration than providing quality job opportunities for Rhode Islanders and all Americans," said Langevin. "Particularly in Rhode Island, we know that the disconnect between the skills our workers are learning and the qualifications employers need has held back our economic recovery. The Job Corps initiative's ability to collaborate with industries to prepare young people for available jobs is an important part of our efforts to address this challenge. This is not the time to be cutting back on the opportunities for our workforce to benefit from the program."
Letter to Seth Harris, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor:
January 25, 2013
The Honorable Seth D. Harris
Acting Secretary of Labor
United States Department of Labor
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20210
Dear Acting Secretary Harris,
We are writing to express our strong concerns over the Department of Labor's plan to suspend student enrollment in the Job Corps program through the end of the 2012 program year in addition to cutting nearly 3,000 student slots at seven selected Job Corps Centers.
On January 8, 2013, the Department of Labor announced that it would cut almost 3,000 student slots at seven selected Job Corps Centers. In response to that announcement, on January 16, 2013, Assistant Secretary Jane Oates agreed in a conference call with interested Members of Congress to look at alternative cost savings measures, and if student slot cuts were deemed necessary, she agreed to consider spreading those across all Job Corps Centers.
On January 18, Congressional offices were notified that effective January 28, 2013, new student enrollment would be suspended at all Job Corps Centers across the country in addition to the previously announced student cuts at the seven selected centers. This announcement was a stark contrast to the outcome that was anticipated after the conference call. The severe cuts to the Clearfield, Earle C. Clements, Gary, Guthrie, Keystone, Turner, and Westover Centers, combined with 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. 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.
Sadly, this is the third time in eight months that the Department of Labor has suspended or cut student enrollment in the Job Corps program due to operational budget shortfalls. When asked, the Department of Labor has not provided Congressional offices with the amount of money that will be saved by implementing these policies. Also, the Department of Labor continues to say that the hope is these cuts will be temporary, through the end of the 2012 program year. However, Congressional offices have not received any guarantees in writing from the Department of Labor that Centers will be able to recoup those student slots on July 1, 2013, the beginning of the 2013 program year.
In Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis' resignation announcement, she stated that she was proud of the $65 billion spent by the Department of Labor on job training programs. We ask that in your new position as Acting Secretary, you place a 30 day moratorium on reducing student slots and suspending enrollment, enabling the Department more time to reconsider these policies and instead work with center directors and operators to develop a reasonable, alternative cost savings plan to recapture the 2012 program year's budget shortfall. Since the suspension of enrollment is scheduled to go into effect on January 28th, we request a reply prior to that date.