Gary may face student cuts
SAN MARCOS, Jan 16, 2013 (San Marcos Daily Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A projected $60 million shortfall in the U.S. Department of Labor could have a huge impact on the local economy.
Gary Job Corps has been identified as one of seven job training sites where the DOL is preparing to make deep cuts in the student population that will in turn lead to staff layoffs.
At this point, however, the cuts are not considered permanent. According to Elizabeth Todd of the DOL, the reductions "will be temporary through June 30" of this year.
According to Issa Arnita, director of corporate communications for Management and Training Corporation, the student population at Gary would be cut by 37 percent -- or 620 students. Gary students currently number 1,660.
"We're very surprised by this move. It kind of came out of nowhere," Arnita said. "We first heard about it early last week."
In addition to Gary, which was the nation's first job corps center, targeted sites include Earl C. Clements Job Corps in Morganfield, Ky., Turner Job Corps in Albany, Ga., Clearfield Job Corps in Clearfield, Utah, Westover Job Corps in Chicopee, Mass., Keystone Job Corps in Drums, Penn. and Guthrie Job Corps in Guthrie, Okla. A total of 3,000 training slots are expected to be cut.
MTC took over management of Gary in 2000. The company also manages four of the other centers where slot reductions are planned.
Arnita isn't sure of the timeline but said the move is a concern both for students wishing to pursue job training and local residents who work as staff or faculty.
"Gary is a very successful job corps center. This program helps young adults 16 to 24 have the opportunity to get a GED or diploma and training at a particular trade and go out and get a job. Telling 620 students, 'sorry, you can't come to Gary' is just devastating to hear."
He said it's too early to give numbers on possible staff reductions. Gary currently employs 600 people, making it one of the largest local employers.
"It's not just students and staff, it's the local economy," Arnita said. "It's going to be detrimental to everyone involved. We're very, very concerned."
Arnita praised the current Gary staff as "talented and dedicated" and "doing a terrific job with the students."
He also didn't know why Gary was included on the list for reductions, but noted that the others are also among the nation's largest. The newspaper in Clearfield, Utah said reductions there would cut the job corps student population in half.
Reaction in San Marcos to the news came quickly.
"Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos was the very first job corps center established in the nation by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on March 2, 1964," San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero said.
"Tens of thousands of disadvantaged youth have gained training, life-long careers and become productive citizens through their training at Gary. A cutback in enrollment of 37 percent will have a profoundly damaging impact on the outstanding training programs Gary Job Corps offers and to the $30 million in economic benefit to the San Marcos area. We urge the Department of Labor to reconsider its cutbacks," continued Guerrero, who also serves on Gary's Community Relations Council.
According to its fact sheet, Gary provides training to more than 2,300 youth each year, and of the 125 centers nationwide, it ranks 23rd in six-month earnings and 27th in 12-month follow ups. Every $1 invested in job corps returns $1.91 in local economic activity, program officials say. Students who graduated from Gary with a high school diploma last year are estimated to return $142 million into their local economies over their lifetimes.
Gary provides training in the fields of carpentry, cement masonry, electrical, HVAC, machinist, material handling, plastering, welding, certified nurses aid, clinical medical assistant, medical administration, insurance claims, pharmacy technician, computer service technician, correctional officer, human services, office administration, security officer, overhead linesman, residential advisor, smart meter and transportation communications.
Gary also has strong ties to the San Marcos CISD.
"Travis Elementary and Gary Job Corps have been partners for the past nine years," Travis Principal Niki Konecki said, explaining that her secretary works "side by side" with Gary's work-based learning programs, training students "every six weeks in the fields of Teacher Assistant and Office Assistant."
"This commitment is established as the students from Gary Job Corps meet our criteria of honor, respect and work-readiness. The students are taught personnel skills, office etiquette, telephone skills, filing, copying, laminating, setting up bulletin boards, organization, reading to students, students reading to them and other duties assigned. Their attitude to give their best is high on our list of expectations and they meet that and more," she said.
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