Program supports young jobseekers

Published 8:58 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

A federal government program designed to give young people a jumpstart on their careers is coming to Suffolk for an information session this month.

Job Corps helps young people find work by showing them how to overcome hurdles, according to a career transition specialist with the program in Virginia and its national director.

The U.S. Department of Labor program is billed as America’s largest career technical and education program for low-income students ages 16 through 24.

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Karen Bailey is one of eight career transition specialists with the program in Virginia. She helps program graduates “find employment (or) go back to school — basically to help (them) start their careers.”

The Suffolk Workforce Development Center has announced an information session on Job Corps on Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. The center is located at 157 N. Main St., second floor, Suite D.

Bailey said it’s a great opportunity to learn all about Job Corps. In turn, she said, the program is a great opportunity for students to kick-start meaningful careers.

“It really gives young people an opportunity,” she said. “It takes care of housing, uniforms — all their basic needs. All they have to do is be willing to go in and get as much out of it as they can.”

Grace Kilbane, the program’s national director, said that in the 12 months to June 30, 2013, Job Corps graduated 70.8 percent of its students.

“Of that, 74.6 percent were placed: 60 percent in jobs, 13.5 percent in continuing higher education, and 1.1 percent in the military,” Kilbane added.

Bailey said a common misconception is that Job Corps does not cater to folks who already have their high school diploma or GED.

“They still can go to Job Corps so that they can get a trade as well as their driver’s license,” she said.

The program covers a variety of trades and professions, including automotive technology, CNA/LPN, culinary arts, electrician, health careers, landscaping, office administration, painting, pharmacy tech, plumbing, welding and security.

“We have 11 industries that we train in,” Kilbane said. Students, she added, attended one of 125 training centers nationally, most of which were residential.

“We feed them, we house them, we have medical care and we have uniforms,” she said.

Bailey and her colleagues work with local employers to match graduates with jobs. “(For instance) we have an excellent relationship with Huntington Ingalls (Newport News Shipbuilding),” she said.

Kilbane said the program makes constant adjustments to its training focus. For instance, she said, the amount of hard construction training was reduced when the recession slowed the construction industry.

“It’s not like we can prepare for it,” she said. “We just have to be receptive to it.”

Bailey said she finds transportation is a common barrier for participants. But the program helps students attain their drivers’ licenses, and graduates can receive a lump sum “transition check” of up to $1,000, which can go toward a moped or as a down payment on a car.

Most participants remain in the program for nine to 12 months, Bailey said, but some stay for two years.

After graduating with a trade, she said, participants receive the services of a career transition specialist for nine months to find employment, after which they can continue to receive services for a period.

“A lot of times, our young people are seeking employment for the first time, so they are not aware of how to go about job hunting,” Bailey said.

“It’s teaching them that it’s a process, and working with them to connect them to employers.”

Job Corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Kilbane noted. “(It) gives these students the next chance to spend a year getting back on track, increasing their reading and math skills by an average of two years each, to graduate to get a good job or to go into further education or the military.”

For more information on the information session, contact the Suffolk Workforce Development Center at 514-7730.