Labor official resigns amid Job Corps budget woes

 

A top Labor Department official who acknowledged budgeting missteps and cost overruns while overseeing Job Corps announced Monday that she has resigned, effective at the end of the month.

Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration. (Labor Department).
Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration. (Labor Department).

Jane Oates, assistant secretary of Labor’s Employment and Training division, notified employees of her decision in an e-mail touting her accomplishments. The message made no mention of budget woes for the federal job training program.

Job Corps froze new enrollments in January after running a deficit of $60 million, but the program lifted the stoppage in April. It still plans to reduce enrollment by 20 percent, according to the National Job Corps Association, which represents the contractors that run the program’s training centers.

The association has estimated that the freeze blocked at least 10,000 prospective trainees from Job Corps and cost about 700 people their jobs at training centers.

“The most amazing part of my experience at ETA has been your willingness to examine your processes and help create change,” Oates said in her e-mail to employees.

In 2010, the Labor Department restructured how it handles Job Corps, in part by placing budgeting and procurement operations in separate areas of the Employment and Training division instead of the Office of Job Corps. The program incurred a $30 million deficit during its next budget cycle, followed by the $60 million shortfall this year.

During a Senate hearing in March, Oates acknowledged that budgeting missteps and a lack of accounting expertise among senior staff contributed to the cost overruns. She told lawmakers that the shortfall was due to “inadequate staffing and monitoring on the part of the Job Corps program.”

Critics contend that ETA ignored budgeting advice from vendors who run the job-training centers.

“We are hopeful that the department’s new leadership will work more collaboratively with Job Corps stakeholders to ensure vulnerable young Americans are never again unnecessarily turned away from Job Corps,” said National Job Corps Association government-relations director Anand Vimalassery.

Oates said ETA’s accomplishments during her tenure included disbursing nearly $1 billion in Recovery Act funds, creating a partnership between Job Corps, IBM and Jamba Juice, and improving relationships between home and regional offices.

Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio declined to comment on Oates’s resignation, saying the agency does not discuss personnel matters.

 

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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