Jobs

The $1.7 Billion Federal Job Training Program Is a Massive Failure

The program's goals might be admirable, but the reality is a whole different story.

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Jim West imageBROKER/Newscom

The Department of Labor's Job Corps program is supposed to teach disadvantaged young people the skills they need to get good jobs. But the program, which costs taxpayers about $1.7 billion per year, is apparently a failure.

About 50,000 students enroll in the program each year, about two-thirds of whom are high school dropouts, according to The New York Times. Results aside, the program's goals are admirable. As The Wall Street Journal reported in April:

Launched in 1964, Job Corps works with 16- to 24-year-olds who grew up homeless or poor, passed through foster care, or suffered other hardships. The goal is to equip these young adults with skills for careers in advanced manufacturing, the building trades, health care, information technology, business and more.

Unfortunately, that's not what's happening. A March audit from the Labor Department's Office of Inspector General sampled 324 Job Corps participants who were five years removed from graduation. The median annual income of 231 of those participants (wage records weren't available for the rest), was just $12,486 as of December 2016. The audit acknowledged that "Job Corps could not demonstrate beneficial job training outcomes."

That's not all. Job Corps spends about $50 million a year on "transition services" to help graduates find jobs. But in 94 percent of the cases sampled, "Job Corps contractors could not demonstrate they had assisted participants in finding jobs."

The program's failure is perhaps best seen at the North Texas Job Corps Center, which is a roughly 40-minute drive from Dallas. While the Dallas economy is booming, this center is one of the poorest-performing Job Corps campuses in the nation. Violence is an issue, particularly gang-related incidents. It doesn't help that students at this center—and at all Job Corps campuses around the country—have to live together.

One former North Texas teacher, who quit in 2015, says the entire program is failing. "Job Corps doesn't work," the teacher, Teresa Sanders, tells the Times. "The adults are making money, the politicians are getting photo ops. But we are all failing the students."

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta admits the program "requires fundamental reform."

"It is not enough to make changes at the margins," he tells the Times. "We need large-scale changes."

Despite its shortcomings, Jobs Corps is popular among both Republicans and Democrats in Congress (to Democrats, it's a government program aimed at reducing poverty; to Republicans, it incentivizes hard work), so there's only so much Acosta can do. "You have a program with a rich and complicated history that's one of the biggest leftovers from the war on poverty, and it is enormously complicated to make any significant changes," Eric M. Seleznow, a former deputy assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration during the Obama administration, tells the Times. He notes that "competing interests from Congress, program operators, advocates, as well as complex legal requirements present a lot of challenges."

If Job Corps is salvageable, then it can do some real good. But if real reforms aren't going to happen, Congress should shut it down.

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25 responses to “The $1.7 Billion Federal Job Training Program Is a Massive Failure

  1. One former North Texas teacher, who quit in 2015, says the entire program is failing. “Job Corps doesn’t work,” the teacher, Teresa Sanders, tells the Times. “The adults are making money, the politicians are getting photo ops. But we are all failing the students.”

    So I’m confused here – the people running the program are making money and patting themselves on the back for what wonderful people they are, so where’s the failure? Sounds like a wildly successful government program to me.

    1. That’s why it won’t be changed. It’s working as designed, it’s just not working as stated.

      Sold to us! Ah, the power of marketing.

  2. Giving that money to companies to hire interns would have been money better spent. Its still a waste.

    Let young people enter the jobs market by trying labor intensive positions and decide what they want to do. Companies get cheaper labor and can pass on some good knowledge.

    1. Nah man, can’t let companies hire interns at all because that’s exploitation!!11!!1

      Better these people have no job at all than to trade labor for experience.

  3. “But the program, which costs taxpayers about $1.7 billion per year, is apparently a failure.”

    They didn’t spend enough. Obviously, they just need to be given more money and everything will work out just fine.

  4. It was great… if you were the one controlling the money!

  5. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta admits the program “requires fundamental reform.”
    Translation: It needs more money, preferably from a dedicated funding source.

  6. “It is not enough to make changes at the margins,” he tells the Times. “We need large-scale changes.”

    Very well. Abolish the Department of Labor.

    1. Yes, please.

  7. You know which other federal programs were massive failures?

    1. ObamaCare.

    2. WPA: Federal Writer’s Project. Federal Theater Project. Federal Art Project. Federal Music Project….

    3. All of them?

      1. Bingo!

    4. G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate?

    5. Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

    6. You know which other federal programs were massive failures?

      That’s easy. But ?.

      Complaining about a problem, without posing a solution, is whining.
      -Theodore Roosevelt

      I see a lot of whining here.

      The only relevant question is — how to replace those programs That should be simple, show a better way to provide what Americans want done. Sneering is so much easier, but useless as a solution.

      Libertarians once had many ideas and proposals for this, until about a quarter-century ago. We failed first at what now also cripples the GOP. ? an anti-government mentality, focused on shrinking government. Pro-liberty, now dormant, focuses in expanding liberty.

      Repealing Medicaid does nothing to restore the universal treatment Americans once provided. That requires a transition, rebuilding the private infrastructure. But sneering is so much easier.

      Mass movements do not need a god, but they do need a devil. Hatred unifies the True Believers.”
      -Eric Hoffer, “The True Believers” (1951)

      Throughout human history, the worst moral atrocities have been committed by those brainwashed to believe they are defending some “greater good” — the Collective, the State, the Master Race, the Party or a God. Zealots and fanatics. The militant self-righteous.

      Hatred of government is just as perverse. We must return to pro-liberty pro-people.
      Is it too late?

  8. >>>”The adults are making money, the politicians are getting photo ops. But we are all failing the students.”

    success! ~~gov’t

  9. “The adults are making money, the politicians are getting photo ops. But we are all failing the students.”

    This is the case with most government administered social programs. The biggest beneficiaries of welfare (TANF) are the bureaucrats running it. The biggest beneficiaries of food stamps are grocery stores. The biggest beneficiaries of Section 8 housing are slumlords. The biggest beneficiaries of energy assistance programs are utilities. The biggest beneficiaries of Head Start are administrators.

    I think burn out is so high among workers in these services because they realize the futility of doing any social good and leave. Those that stay understand the huge waste of money and effort and that ending these programs is near impossible and any reform only results in minor changes and realignment.

  10. The program’s failure is perhaps best seen at the North Texas Job Corps Center, which is a roughly 40-minute drive from Dallas. While the Dallas economy is booming, this center is one of the poorest-performing Job Corps campuses in the nation. Violence is an issue, particularly gang-related incidents. It doesn’t help that students at this center?and at all Job Corps campuses around the country?have to live together.

    Good Lord. This sounds like some dystopian version of a reform boarding school, not a job training program.

    1. Sounds like the makings of a ‘reality’ TV show

  11. If Job Corps is salvageable, then it can do some real good. But if real reforms aren’t going to happen, Congress should shut it down.

    Wat?

    This is obviously a piece written for publication elsewhere. No, Job Corps can’t do real good. Because the customers are politicians, not the people being trained. Congress should shut it down because if it were worth doing, someone in the private sector would do it and make money doing it.

  12. Pro-liberty libertarians (not anti-government) have long suggested a bonus tax-deduction for employers to do the training. Instead of taxpayers paying 100% of the training, assume a 125% tax deduction for wages to eligible workers. On-the-job training, only if profitable to employers, at far less taxpayer cost, plus taxes from higher future wages. And all means-tested programs, like food stamps, decrease with each dollar of higher income.

    For pro-liberty libs, this is one part of a transition back to private support. Americans (being Americans) have always willingly paid to support the legitimately disadvantaged. Even health care, where private charities provided the “universal” treatment that progressives claim to want, but fail to provide. Progressives argued, correctly, that health care was not a right. But failed to show that it CAN be. Medicaid eligibles now have a higher uninsured rate than the private market. The untreated was 0%, pre-Medicaid.

    The greatest threat to liberty is ..,. libertarians ? now dominated by an anti-government mentality. Medicaid repeal cannot restore free-market outcomes. Progressives will continue kicking our ass, until we show a better way to provide what Americans have always been willing to pay for, and how to transition, . Likewise, here, Americans would eagerly support helping both employers and seekers overcome the damage of our public schools. And pocketing the savings. Liberty cares!

  13. When have these programs been anything but?

  14. It’s time for a Guaranteed Jobs program.

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