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Job Corps celebrates 40 years of helping youths

Few government-subsidized programs last 40 years and Job Corps is among them. The program is being recognized for providing education and training alternatives to nearly 2 million youths throughout the United States over the years.

In fact, officials within the program are using this year's 40th anniversary celebration as an opportunity to help the public better understand their federal job training and education program. During the Management and Training Corpor- ation's annual Job Corps leadership conference held Thursday at the Sheraton City Centre Hotel, a new focus for the organization was revealed.

"Job Corps is identifying the changing American workplace and work force," said Steve Gunderson, former Wisconsin congressman and member of the education and labor committee. He said it is essential to redesign and redeliver training practices in order to be competitive in a global marketplace.

Job Corps operates two centers in Utah, both fully funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Clearfield is the third largest center in the country, with more than 1,300 students. The Weber Basin Job Corps offers vocational training in seven different fields, often referring many students on to higher education opportunities. National Job Corps Director Grace Kilbane said the average center only houses a couple hundred students.

"It is a great way for some youth to take the focus off getting a job and obtain education and training in a residential setting," she said. Most of the 122 centers nationwide offer qualifying students food, housing, counseling and medical services, transportation, a clothing allowance, a small stipend and job placement assistance.

Carl Stuart, MTC communication director, said it's basically a $25,000 scholarship.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about Job Corps out there," he said. He hopes that this year, more people will see the centers for what they are to the students enrolled.

"Job Corps is a unique program because it focuses totally on academic and technical training," said former U.S. Assistant Labor Secretary Robert Jones. "They are leading the way for how we should educate our young people."

This year, Job Corps is focusing on four key aspects of the program and calling them the "4 C's:" change, career, community and character.

"Job Corps has demonstrated a 40-year history of excellence by evolving to meet the changing needs of America's youth, the labor market and society," Kilbane said. One of those changes included offering students an option to receive an accredited high school diploma instead of the GED.

Kilbane said that in order for students to succeed, they need a career path, and she believes Job Corps provides that for students, not just placing them into a job.

Job Corps students offer community service in many areas, including cleanup of the hurricane damage in Florida, fighting forest fires in the West and hosting blood drives nationwide.

"We are very proud of what Job Corps has accomplished in the past 40 years, and look forward to challenges and continued achievements in the future," Kilbane said.