Job Corps closing troubled center in Oklahoma

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A chronically low-performing outpost of the federal Job Corps program — highlighted in a Washington Post story  earlier this year —  has now been marked for closure by the Department of Labor.

In a notice published Wednesday, the department said it intended to close the Treasure Lake Job Corps center in Indiahoma, Okla. At that center, located in a remote area of a national wildlife refuge, young people are given a free live-in education on subjects like construction, nursing or cooking.

But, for years, the center has struggled to give those students what Job Corps is supposed to: a new start on a career. In recent years, only about half of its students completed their job training — and only about 55 percent of those got jobs in the fields they trained for. Those results had consistently ranked Treasure Lake close to last among the 125 centers nationwide.

In recent months, the department had been studying all centers, with an eye to closing one or more. So far, the Treasure Lake center is the only one that’s been recommended for closure.

“We also can no longer continue to make investments in centers that have consistently failed to serve students well,” said Stephen G. Barr, a Labor Department spokesman, in an e-mailed statement.

This is the first time that Job Corps has closed a center because of performance problems, Barr said.

The department will now wait 30 days for public comments about the proposal to close Treasure Lake. On Wednesday, the plan was applauded by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who had criticized the center in the past.

“This is a first step in the right direction and I encourage the Department to continue closing Job Corps centers that are obsolete, duplicative or wasting taxpayer dollars,” Coburn said in a statement.

Read more: Job Corps turns 50 

David A. Fahrenthold covers Congress for the Washington Post. He has been at the Post since 2000, and previously covered (in order) the D.C. police, New England, and the environment.
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