Casey Calls on Labor Department to Reverse Course on Enrollment Freeze in Critical Job Training Program

Freeze Has Potential to Prevent Youth from Gaining Vital Skills in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lopez and Drums, PA

Mismanagement of Funds At Department of Labor May Have Led to Squeeze of Job Training Program

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Department of Labor (DOL) to reverse course on an enrollment freeze in a key job training program that could impact residents in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lopez and Drums, Pennsylvania. The program, Job Corps, gives young people critical skills to compete in the workforce. The decision by the Department of Labor to implement a hiring freeze may be due to a mismanagement of funds that threatens the program’s future. In his letter, Casey called for an end to the enrollment freeze and an examination of DOL’s management of the program.

“Job training is critical to providing Pennsylvania residents with the skills they need to compete for jobs,” Senator Casey said. “The Department of Labor should end the enrollment freeze and take immediate steps to properly manage the Job Corps program.”

Pennsylvania has four Job Corps sites across the Commonwealth: Keystone, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Red Rock.  These facilities provide disadvantaged youth with the opportunity to gain the skills needed to secure a good job, enter the Armed Services, or further their education.  Students, educators and community leaders rely on the contributions Pennsylvania’s Job Corps centers make to their communities. Senator Casey has visited some of these centers in Pennsylvania.

This month, financial problems at the Department resulted in decisions that will greatly impact the Commonwealth’s centers.  On January 18th, the Department announced it is suspending all new enrollments through the end of the program year for all 125 Job Corps sites.  This decision means that centers across Pennsylvania will have to turn away new students

Recent cuts to the program may be a result of mismanagement on the part of the Department of Labor.  During program year 2011, the Department identified a $39 million funding shortfall in the Job Corps operations account.  This announcement resulted in the Department scrambling to meet their budget obligations by stopping enrollment and transferring funds between accounts. Unfortunately, these problems have only intensified with the Department reporting a current shortfall of about $60 million, which has resulted in the Department’s decision to halt new enrollment once again.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:

 

The Honorable Seth D. Harris

Acting Secretary of Labor

United States Department of Labor

Frances Perkins Building

200 Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Washington, District of Columbia 20210

Dear Acting Secretary Harris,

I write to you today with serious concerns about the Department of Labor’s recent announcements about cuts to the Job Corps program.  Specifically, I am concerned about the impact of freezing enrollment at Pennsylvania’s four centers and the potential for future cuts to the number of positions available, such those originally proposed at the Keystone Job Corps Center.

Pennsylvania has four Job Corps sites across the Commonwealth: Keystone, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Red Rock.  These facilities provide disadvantaged youth with the opportunities to gain the skills needed to secure a good job, enter the Armed Services, or further their education.  Students, educators and community leaders rely on the contributions Pennsylvania’s Job Corps make to their communities.

This month, financial problems at the Department resulted in decisions that will greatly impact the Commonwealth’s centers.  On January 18th, the Department announced it is suspending all new enrollments through the end of the program year for all 125 Job Corps sites.  This decision means that centers across Pennsylvania will have to turn away new students.

The decision follows a January 8th announcement that the Department was making temporary reductions at seven Job Corps sites, including the Keystone center located in Drums, PA.  While I understand that this directive has since been rescinded, I am concerned that continued budgetary problems could result in these cuts being reinstated.  The directive would have reduced the number of slots available at the Keystone center from 600 to 400.  Such a massive cut to this center would have resulted in as many as 60 layoffs of full-and-part time staff.  Further, the 33 percent capacity reduction would be particularly galling given the sizable investments made in recent years by the Department.  In total, millions of dollars have been spent to build a new dining hall and six new dorms, some of which would sit unused if these cuts were to be implemented.

I am concerned that these cuts are a result of mismanagement of funds on the part of the Department of Labor.  First, during program year 2011, the Department identified a $39 million funding shortfall in the Job Corps operations account.  This announcement resulted in the Department scrambling to meet their budget obligations by stopping enrollment and transferring funds between accounts.  At that time, I hoped that Department had taken the necessary steps to solve its fiscal issues.  However, we have since learned the problems have intensified and resulted in the announcements discussed above.

The Department needs to take the steps necessary to resume normal operations of the Job Corps program.  The recent fiscal issues and the Department’s response suggest troubling issues in the administration of the program.  I understand that there have been a number of cost saving initiatives put forth by stakeholders.  I implore the Department to examine each and every option.  It is unacceptable that centers are asked to bear the burden of the fiscal management by cutting off services at the drop of a dime.  Job Corps centers train our youth for the workforce.  We must take care to protect this vital service.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator