OTTUMWA — Congressman Dave Loebsack was excited when he came to tour the Ottumwa Job Corps Center Friday afternoon.
Loebsack spoke with students in Job Corps, hearing them talk about their career interests. Center Director Taren Ferguson noticed both nerves and excitement from students as they spoke with the congressman.
“Anytime we have a government official, they get excited,” she said, “because they see that there’s other people outside of this staff here on center that really care and support this program, they are taking advantage of our students are really excited about that because they know this program can change lives.”
Ferguson told Loebsack there are 250 Ottumwa Job Corps students, with an 85 percent success rate of getting good jobs and living out their passions. She said the program is a success because of cost and the way it is structured — an environment that is supportive and inclusive.
“This is this program that we always tell students when coming in,” she said, “that this is the best deal the federal government is offering with free education. Our students stay here for 10 months which is not normal on a Job Corps Center — the average length is six months. The longer they stay that means more credentials they’re getting, the more certifications and additional education.”
“Our students are invested in themselves and we have a community that embraces our center,” Ferguson added. “Due to our partnership with Indian Hills, we’re able to be as successful as we are and we’re able to work on our students software skills, resume building and communication skills.”
Loebsack started working at age 16 and saw the benefits of hard work. That’s part of the reason he continues to support the Job Corps Center.
“They become highly functional adults once they’re done with the program,” he said, “and often they’re already doing courses with Indian Hills for example. So this is just a really wonderful program for these young people and to make them to sort of mold them and train them to become successful members of our society and productive members of our society.”
Loebsack has visited other Job Corps facilities and wants to support them even though his time as congressman will come to an end in 13 months.
“We still have the time to put a little more money into these programs going forward and I’m going to continue working on that,” Loebsack said. “I can’t do the job if I can’t come out here and see the programs and talk to the people a part of it, especially the students.”