By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The U.S. Department of Labor hasn’t been saying much, but officials from Iowa are hopeful that actions speak louder than words.
There has been a freeze of enrollment at Job Corps centers across the nation, including one of the newest sites, the Ottumwa Job Corps Center. That meant Ottumwa was not going to reach full capacity and didn’t need as many employees.
On Monday, a representative of the National Job Corps Association in Washington told the Courier that it looks like the DOL may have had a change of heart. The Labor Department has called back admission recruiting personnel across the country.
A staffer for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s office told the Courier a number of things are going on behind the scenes that make them believe the enrollment freeze could soon be lifted.
“That would be great,” said Indian Hills Community College President Jim Lindenmayer.
The college has partnered with the Ottumwa Job Corps Center on a number of programs.
“It’s so important to our region, but more importantly to the youth of our nation. It’s estimated there have been 1,000 young people a week who cannot enroll. Others have had to put their lives on hold after [sort of] getting a promise and having the rug pulled out from under her,” he said.
The “her” in question was a nursing student Lindenmayer heard speak during an event at Job Corps. The young lady told visitors she had signed up for training in nursing. Before getting into that program, students are required to take CNA courses to learn certified nursing assistant skills. Those skills are comparatively very basic. But due to the freeze, it was as far as the young lady could go.
Word that she may be able to complete her job training has officials cautiously optimistic.
“As a longtime supporter of Job Corps, I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Labor appears on track to begin re-enrollment, because the program is so important for at-risk youth in Iowa and across the country,” Harkin said on Monday.
He’s currently chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on labor and education. On Thursday, he’s scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing with the official nominated to be the next Secretary of Labor.