By WANDA MOELLER
---- — OTTUMWA — Students at Ottumwa's Job Corps can be assured a job is in their future.
Job Corps' Career Development Director Saunja Townsend said, "What a jewel it is to have this training program here in Ottumwa." Townsend delivered her comments as part of the Community Relations Council meeting on Tuesday morning.
"The national goal for Job Corps graduation placement is 90 percent. They expect us to place 9 out of 10 people to complete the training program," said Townsend. "Your Ottumwa Job Corps Center does 93 percent. We are No. 1 in the nation out of 125 Job Corps centers in graduate placement."
Even with government cutbacks during the past year, Townsend said students placed in jobs earned a wage of more than $10 a hour. Plus an additional 79 percent of the graduates are placed in full-time positions.
Ottumwa Job Corps Center Director Mark Douglas said while there have been successes, the past year has been a rough one for Job Corps as a program.
"Every time government would go through a crisis, we would go through that crisis with them. It created a lot of disruption to our program and created a lot of enrollment freezes. We weren't able to take students; there was about 20 percent reduction in the program as as whole," he said.
Job Corps nationwide used to serve about 60,000 youth a year. Because of the cuts, those numbers were reduced to 40,000. As a result, every Job Corps Center went through significant reductions. As student numbers were reduced, staffing patterns also were reduced.
"What we really are hoping this next year, going into 2014, is a brighter outlook going forward," said Douglas.
While the program is thinner than it has been in the past year, locally, the center saw a significant reduction of students from 300 to 237. At the present time, the local Job Corps has room for about 30 students to come on board.
"Our goal is to educate and train," said Douglas.
Douglas also indicated if businesses have a need for students work in a volunteer capacity, Job Corps certainly would be glad to organize a function or an event for them to get involved.
"Job Corps communities donate hundreds of thousands hours to community service," said Douglas. "It's a way for our students to return their appreciation back to the local community."