The Job Corps in Nampa trained teens. Then it closed. It just reopened, far different

The Centennial Job Corps center in Nampa reopened Tuesday under new management, overseen by the Idaho Department of Labor.

The U.S. Forest Service, which had operated the program during its 54 years first in Marsing and then in Nampa, quietly shuttered the center north of Interstate 84 in April.

The Idaho Job Corps’ goal is to place every student into a sustainable job by the time the student graduates, something the federal Job Corps struggled to obtain. A 2018 report by the U.S. Labor Department’s inspector general concluded that the Job Corps, which receives $1.7 billion in annual funding to train 50,000 students a year, was unable to demonstrate “beneficial job training outcomes.”

Former Idaho Gov. Butch Otter reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Labor for the state to take over the center. The Idaho program aims to increase enrollment and focus on Idaho students. The federal program accepted students from Idaho and other states.

Half of the 240 students, ages 16 to 24, were sent to other Job Corps programs, and 40% were forced to quit. The other 10% were able to compete the program and graduate.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded a three-year grant to the Idaho Department of Labor to operate the center to provide skills training to low-income youths between the ages of 16 and 24. Officials say it will focus on high-growth occupations where the prospects of obtaining jobs are good.

The College of Western Idaho is providing instructors for workforce skills training and technical courses. Training will be provided for jobs as certified nursing assistants, carpentry, business accounting, computer science and drafting, along with apprenticeships in plumbing, heating and cooling and electrical fields, among others.

It appears that training in wildland firefighting, offered under the Forest Service program, is not a part of the Idaho Job Corps.

One hundred students who will commute between home and the campus are expected to take part in the program this year. Twenty students were enrolled when the program opened on Tuesday, Georgia Smith, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Labor said in an email.

Next year, 50 additional students who will live at the center will be added.

Students will remain in the program from three months to two years, depending on their career trajectory. Students will learn job skills and have the opportunity to earn a high school or GED diploma.

“We are excited about this venture, Skip Smyser, chairman of CWI’s board of trustees, said in a news release. “Connecting students to the skills they need to be successful through education is our mission, and this will benefit employers and communities throughout our area.”

Students will receive a small stipend for participating in the program. The Idaho Job Corps will pay for tuition, fees, meals, child care, clothes and, in some cases, transportation.

Potential students can attend an orientation session. Sessions are held at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays at the center, 3201 Ridgecrest Drive. They will learn about the program, how to apply and be given a tour of the campus. Interested students can call (208) 442-4500 to speak with an Idaho Labor Department workforce consultant.

In the second and third years, the Idaho Department of Labor plans to partner with other community colleges and enroll 50 non-residential students each in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene.

Tina Polishchuk, the program manager for the Idaho Job Corps, previously worked for the State Department of Education in a program that assisted students in earning college credit while in high school. She is a former teacher in the Caldwell School District.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.