By PBN Staff
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor is officially ending its suspension on new enrollments in the nation’s federal Job Corps program, but Sen. Jack Reed said that he remains “deeply concerned” that sequestration and financial mismanagement at the agency could mean fewer available slots for young people.
“The enrollment freeze was costing jobs and opportunities. I am pleased the suspension has been lifted. Exeter’s Job Corps Center is one of the best in the country and has helped many young people get back on track, learn new skills, and build careers,” said the senator in prepared remarks.
“I remain deeply concerned about the management of this program and will continue to work with my colleagues and officials at the U.S. Department of Labor to get the program working effectively again,” added Reed, a democrat and a member of the Appropriations Committee who played a leading role in securing $15 million in federal funds to get the Exeter Job Corps Academy back up and running.
At a U.S. Senate hearing in March, officials from the Labor Department testified that sloppy financial management and a lack of program monitoring at a federal level led to a $61 million cost overrun, which caused Job Corps to suspend new enrollments in January at all 125 Job Corps locations in the U.S., according to a news release from the senator’s office.
According to Reed, Labor Department Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, who oversees the federal Job Corps program nationwide, said that several factors contributed to the program’s financial problems, including: growing expenditures after the delayed openings of three new centers in 2010 and 2011 and “serious weakness in ETA’s and Job Corp’s financial management process that led to a failure to identify and adjust to rising costs in a timely manner.”
The senator’s office added that the Labor Department is conducting a review of the internal controls for Job Corps funds and expenditures and on the root causes of the funding shortfall.
In the release, Reed estimated that the budget shortfall and impact of sequestration could cut maximum enrollment at Job Corps Centers nationwide by roughly 20 percent.
Exeter Job Corps Center, which opened in 2004, provides free job training in a variety of subjects including: computers, culinary arts, construction, hospitality, health fields and manufacturing, among other career paths. Enrollment in the program is typically more than 200 students, with rolling admissions throughout the year.