The Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Glide trains students, often those who don’t respond well to more traditional schooling or work training, to pass the GED or learn job skills like construction, forest conservation and firefighting.
But it, like the other 25 Job Corps CCCs across the country, faces a sea change in management at the federal level.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced in May that it would take over administration of the CCC program from the U.S. Forest Service. As part of the change, nine of the country’s 25 CCCs will close. Wolf Creek is one of 16 centers that will remain open, but be run by a private contractor or partnership, according to the Department of Labor.
According to the Department of Labor, the move will save money for taxpayers, modernize the program and shift students to higher performing centers.
But U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, led a bipartisan group of 18 senators and 33 representatives who urged the administration Wednesday to reverse its decision.
They said the change in management could have detrimental effects on the program, which they said provides valuable job training for youth in rural communities and offers critical wildfire and natural disaster response across the country.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the group wrote with hurricane and wildfire season approaching, it’s the wrong time to reduce capacity at CCCs.
“These centers not only help support these underserved youth and young adults with invaluable job training, but they also provide essential capacity for the U.S. Forest Service to fulfill its mission and provide economic opportunities in rural areas,” they wrote.
“Rural Development is a core USDA mission, and CCC students provide significant services to rural America,” they said.
The Forest Service is a USDA agency.
Across the country, the CCCs employ 1,100 people, operate in 17 national forests and grasslands across 16 states, and provide training to more than 3,000 young people, many of whom come from low-income communities in rural areas, DeFazio and Merkley said in a joint press release. They said 1,200 of those students provided the equivalent of 450,0000 hours of wildfire support in the 2017 fire season.
Oregon has two other CCCs. One, Angell CCC in Yachats, will be run by a contractor or partnership while the other, Timber Lake CCC in Estacada, will close.
The Trump administration said the changes will be made in a way that minimizes impact on students.
“Focusing on the best possible outcomes for students now and in the future, the Department will increase student access to Job Corps centers with the highest sustained student performance outcomes,” the Department of Labor said in a press release.
Read Wolf Creek Job Corps Director Gabe Wishart's comments on the local impact of the change in our followup story here.