One of the jewels in what was to be President Lyndon Johnson's crowning political achivement was the Jobs Corps, a job training program intended to teach troubled youth trade skills, freeing them from the cycle of poverty and into the middle class.
Pouring massive amounts of federal aid into this program has changed lives. To wit: George Foreman learned boxing at a Job Corps center, while other alumni have become doctors, judges. and business owners. Yet, the simple fact is that only 59% of Jobs Corps students complete their training while <50% complete their training and find a job, as reported by the Washington Post.
Today, the Job Corps has 125 centers located across the nation. Enrollees must be at least 16 years old and from low-income families. 50%+ of enrollees do not have a high school diploma. Those accepted into the Jobs Corps live at the centers for free, for an average of 9 to 11 months. Students take academic and vocational classes (e.g, ,cooking, nursing, plumbing) as well as courses on writing resumes and interviewing for job from government instructors. The cost to the nation's taxpayers in 2014 will be $1.7B--making the Jobs Corps the Labor Department's most expensive program--with 37k young adults participating in it (or, at a cost of $45k/year/student of training and job placement, nearly 200% the cost/year of attending a public high school).
Is Jobs Corps worth it?
Data are difficult to come by. But, a 9-year study that began in 1995 examined 15k students who applied for the program compared the results of the students who attended Jobs Corps with those who did not:
- All participants demonstrated greater educational gains, fewer arrests, and less use of food stamps. However, these social benefits--good as they are--did not outweigh the program's cost.
- 12% of participatens had higher wages 4 years after attending the program. However, those benefits disappeared after an additional 4 years, with Job Corps students earning the same as the non-Job Corps students.
- Audits determined that some Job Corps officials have exaggerated the program's success. For example, a student trained in the Job Corps' cooking program got a job as a funeral attendant. However, the Labor Department counted the job as a match to his culinary training.
If this gem of a federal program had been the success it was believed it would be, wouldn't it seem reasonable to assume that its need have been eradicated within 5 decades?
Instead, taxpayers today are pouring $1.7B/year into this prohibitively expensive program. Except for the cost of housing, the same training could be provided by the local school district voc ed facility at ~50% of the cost.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link:
"Great Society at 50: LBJ's Job Corps will cost taxpayers $1.7 billion this year. Does it work?"