Ottumwa, Iowa — Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) and Wapello County, Iowa officials started planning to bring a Job Corps Center to the Ottumwa, Iowa area in 2003. On August 9, the center’s groundbreaking brought an important stage of that plan to fruition.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis joined U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and IHCC President Jim Lindenmayer to address community members.
Wapello County Supervisors Jerry Parker and Greg Kenning and Ottumwa Mayor Dale Uehling were among the 150 attendees who welcomed the construction phase.
Job Corps is a federally-funded education and vocational training program run by the U.S. Department of Labor to train economically-disadvantaged people ages 16-24. The 100 staff of the Ottumwa Job Corps Center will serve 300 students at a time, about 550 students each year. While Congress approved creating the center more than one year ago, it would not have construction would not have started now were it not for $25 million appropriated in the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
According to DOL, Job Corps is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive residential education and job training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 through 24. Job Corps combines classroom, practical, and work-based learning experiences to prepare youth for stable, long-term, high-paying jobs. IHCC President Lindenmayer and others have created a special partnership with the Ottumwa center such that students can transition to IHCC’s 100-plus programs, many of which are tied to specific careers in health occupations, information technology, electronics, ethanol and bioprocessing, lasers, robotics, or other fields.
Construction of the eight buildings on IHCC’s North Campus (just off Highway 149, north of Ottumwa) will be completed in November 2010, with students arriving in early 2011. Senator Harkin characterizes the Job Corps Program as a “rung on the ladder of opportunity” for its participants. He notes it is not an escalator – students must exert initiative to get to the top. Looking ahead, he expects the Ottumwa center to one day have a program for young mothers, similar to that at Iowa’s other Job Corps Center, in Dennison. Dennison’s was the first Job Corps program for young women who did not want to leave their children to come for the training.
Secretary Solis sees the program as essential for the youth who will enter it and as a job creation mechanism during its construction and operating phases. For young adults who have had little chance to learn study or work skills, Job Corps can “put meaning back into their lives.”
Speeches and the groundbreaking itself were relatively brief, in deference to the heat on the now-barren construction site near the Ottumwa Airport and IHCC’s North Campbus buildings. The scenery will be very different in a year.