Investigative Group

A Federal Program Dedicated To Getting People Jobs Didn’t Do Its Job

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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  • Jobs Corps didn’t have evidence it helped the program’s graduates actually find jobs
  • The federal program annually spent $1.7 billion between 2010 and 2016
  • Job Corps graduates’ salaries were typically below poverty line

A federal program dedicated to getting people jobs couldn’t prove it did its own job, a government watchdog reported Tuesday.

Job Corps, which teaches adults skills that are supposed to qualify them for new professions, didn’t have evidence it helped the program’s graduates actually find jobs, and many often found low-paying occupations on their own, according to the Department of Labor’s inspector general (IG).

“Job Corps could not demonstrate the extent to which its training programs helped participants enter meaningful jobs appropriate to their training,” the report said. The program didn’t collect “information related to participants’ prior employment history … and did not provide participants with effective transition services.”

The program annually spent $1.7 billion between 2010 and 2016, including $50 million to contractors tasked with getting program graduates new jobs. The IG found “insufficient evidence demonstrating they had provided the services required by their contracts,” the report said.

Job Corps couldn’t prove they helped 94 percent get jobs.

“[R]ecords indicated that 306 of 324 sampled participants either found their placement without contractors’ assistance or without documented assistance,” the report said.

Additionally, 123 of the sampled participants held jobs before enrolling with Job Corps, but a contractor documented the employment history for just 50. More than half of those 50 took jobs that were similar to positions they held before entering the program, including four that returned to previous employers.

“For example, one participant worked as a fast food cook and cashier prior to entering Job Corps, graduated after attending carpentry training for 347 days, and obtained a job working as a pizza restaurant waiter,” the report said.

“Five years after exiting the program in 2010, this same participant was working at a convenience store earning approximately $11,000 per year,” the report continued. “Job Corps reported this as a successful graduation and placement.”

Another participant “worked as a cashier at a retail store before attending Job Corps in 2011, spent 310 days in bricklaying training, and then returned to work at the same retail store as a stock clerk after graduating,” the report said. “Job Corps also reported this as a successful graduation and placement.”

The IG couldn’t determine how helpful Job Corps was for the 73 participants whose employment history was missing.

“Without the ability to analyze participants’ history, it is not possible to assess whether training opportunities properly matched to participants needs,” the report said. “As a result, participants may have received training that was not suited to their post-training locality, aptitude, or the needs of employers.”

Also, Job Corps graduates’ salaries were typically below poverty line, even years after completing the program.

“The earnings of participants five years after initial placement were slightly less than the poverty threshold for individuals under the age of 65, which was $12,486,” the report said.

A previous IG audit found that Job Corps “placed participants in positions unrelated to their training, placed participants in positions that required little or no training, and in general overstated the success of its job placements,” Tuesday’s report said.

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