The Labor Department’s watchdog office found the agency’s Job Corps centers are struggling to place disadvantaged youth into meaningful careers, potentially providing ammunition for the White House effort to slash the program’s funding.
Job Corps contractors, in 94 percent of job placements reviewed by the DOL Office of Inspector General, couldn’t demonstrate they had helped participants find jobs. The report released April 3 is based on a 2010-2012 time frame, before the labor market had fully rebounded from the recession.
The DOL’s Employment and Training Administration has already assured the OIG that it agrees with the findings and will take up the office’s recommendations to improve Job Corps. Still, the report could serve as a talking point to propel the Trump administration’s proposal for a $407 million reduction in the DOL’s annual spending on Job Corps’ 122 training centers for at-risk youth.
The Trump budget blueprint for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 tried to slash financing for Job Corps and close poor-performing locations. Job Corps costs the department about $1.7 billion per year. This proposal has been considered a nonstarter on Capitol Hill, where Job Corps centers receive broad bipartisan support.
Upon learning of the OIG report, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the House panel that oversees DOL spending, said she would remain a strong proponent of the centers.
“I have seen first-hand how the New Haven Job Corps Center in my district helps young people acquire better jobs with better wages in a variety of fields,” DeLauro said in a statement. “That is why I will continue fighting for Job Corps funding in next year’s appropriations bill just as I did this year, securing a $15 million increase for this fiscal year.”
A DOL spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.