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Committee Seeks Details on Steps DOL is Taking to Ensure Safety of Job Corps Students

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) to express concerns over challenges facing the federal Job Corps program, as well as to request detailed information on steps the Department is taking to improve the health and safety of those who participate in the program.
 
In 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was signed into law to modernize our nation’s workforce development system. Sponsored by Chairwoman Foxx, this bipartisan legislation enacted several reforms to help put more Americans back to work, including provisions to improve Job Corps. However, multiple reports, including from DOL’s Inspector General, have revealed ongoing mismanagement of the program. 
 
In their letter to Secretary Acosta, Chairwoman Foxx and Rep. Guthrie raised concerns over the health and safety of students at Job Corps centers:

The Job Corps program is designed to provide disadvantaged youth with the skills necessary to obtain and hold jobs or further their education … Job Corps, and the centers contracted by the Department, have a responsibility to provide a safe and effective learning and living environment for program participants. However, there has been a troubling increase in the number of student-related safety incidents …

In 2015, youth enrolled in the Job Corps program were tragically murdered at the St. Louis Job Corps Center and the Homestead, Florida Job Corps Center. Since then, there have been many other instances of improper staff behavior, drug or violence-related infractions, and student deaths.

Chairwoman Foxx and Rep. Guthrie also highlighted financial problems that have plagued the program and “limited student education opportunities”:

Remarkably, there are other issues in Job Corps, in addition to student safety, that point to a program plagued by serious deficiencies in management and oversight. For example, Job Corps also has a history of financial mismanagement. A 2015 Government Accountability Office report details how ETA officials projected that program costs would exceed appropriations and when officials took actions to address cost overruns, their guidance to Job Corps centers was often not timely nor complete.

In closing, members requested “a detailed response outlining all of the steps the Department is taking to address student safety concerns and the broader oversight and management challenges experienced by Job Corps.”

To read the letter, click here.

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