This August, we’re celebrating the anniversary of Job Corps, the nation’s largest free residential job training program for young adults ages 16 through 24.
For 57 years, this Department of Labor program has been helping students develop the skills they need to pursue meaningful careers and connecting them with employers seeking skilled workers in high-growth industries. Thanks to Job Corps, nearly 3 million students have received training to launch their careers — and we recently heard from few of our grads about what their experience at Job Corps meant to them.
Meeting the demand for skilled workers during the pandemic and beyond
From our 121 centers across the nation (at least one in every state), we train students in 10 high-growth industry sectors, including health care and caregiving. Demands on the care industry — which includes child care, elder care and home care — grew significantly during the pandemic, and Job Corps is helping meet the need for skilled care workers.
For example, Cassadaga (New York) Job Corps graduate Shameka Batchelor is a traveling nurse who has been on the front lines of the pandemic since April 2020. As the coronavirus spread and the demand for nurses surged, Shameka made the difficult decision to move out of the home she shared with her husband (whom she met at Job Corps) and two children to prevent the risk of exposure. But for Shameka, the sacrifice was worth it to help those in need during the pandemic.
The way she sees it, she never gave up on her nursing career in part because Job Corps didn’t give up on her: Shameka failed the LPN course on her first try at Cassadaga, but nailed it the second time.
“That little chance they gave me bloomed my whole career,” Shameka said.
The “ripple effect” of a Job Corps education
Through Job Corps, Briana Gosier also entered the health care industry after earning her certified nursing assistant license and completing the Medical Office Support program. She credits these early experiences at the Earle C. Clements Job Corps Center in Kentucky for giving her the jump-start she needed to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health care. She is now the operations manager for a national home health services company and just completed her first semester studying to earn her doctorate.
As Briana recently told the Atlanta Inquirer, she owes a lot to Job Corps — and she’s looking for more employees with the skills she gained through the program:
“I tell everyone that I credit my success to Job Corps,” Briana said. “This program is needed, and students with these certifications are needed. I will gladly and confidently hire a Job Corps graduate any day.”
And Briana is just one of many graduates who credit Job Corps with putting them on the path to meaningful careers. When Christine Porter was 16 years old, she dropped out of high school, was experiencing homelessness, and was uncertain about her future. That’s what brought her to Glenmont Job Corps Center in New York. Today she’s a neonatal intensive care nurse with a Master of Science degree and many passport stamps.
“I have delivered babies in Tanzania, studied in Austria and held the hands of Holocaust survivors. I work in soup kitchens and volunteer in my community because I have the knowledge, the love and compassion, and I have the life experience to appreciate everyone’s journey because I too have journeyed,” she said. “All of these amazing and heartfelt experiences that helped me become the nurse I am today all started with my beginnings at Glenmont Job Corps. This is a perfect example of what I like to call a ‘ripple’ effect. Lives are touched across the globe, and it all began from my one little ripple at Job Corps.”
Millions of doors opened, millions more to come
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the solution to some of the workforce’s most pressing needs is right in front of us, if we choose to invest in equity — in underserved youth — by providing this path to success and economic empowerment. The founders of Job Corps were bold enough to think so. Their vision opened the doors for some 3 million Job Corps graduates, including Shameka, Briana and Christine.
We’re honored to have helped millions of students prepare for meaningful careers, and we look forward to supporting millions more.
Happy birthday, Job Corps.
Rachel Torres is the National Director of Job Corps. Follow Job Corps on Twitter at @DOLJobCorps.