Job Corps expects 17 grads at first ceremony in JuneApr 1, 2016 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer
On Feb. 12, Jayden Haslam had his last day at the Wind River Job Corps. At age 20, he became the school's first graduate.
Before the Job Corps opened last summer, the Riverton native was looking to apply to college after graduating from Shoshoni High School.
His mom mentioned the Job Corps, and Haslam decided to apply. He credits admissions counselor Orion Morris with selling him on the merits of the welding program, which Haslam joined Aug. 24.
"I've always loved welding," he said. "I just like how electricity and metal can do what it does."
So far, the decision to pursue that passion has paid off. Before finishing the certification program, Haslam already had a job lined up with Wasatch Railcar Repair in Shoshoni.
He'll don a cap and gown June 17 with approximately 16 other students to participate in the Job Corps' first graduation ceremony.
The success of local students such as Haslam is, in some ways, key to the success of the Job Corps itself. Forty-two percent of the center's students are from Wyoming, with roughly one-quarter from Fremont County.
Employees from the Job Corps make frequent recruitment visits to local schools, especially Wind River High School.
The Job Corps also is in constant communication with tribal councils in an effort to increase the appeal of the WRJC by showing local officials the available benefits for the youth of Fremont County.
"Our success depends on the generosity of the community," WRJC's outreach coordinator Christa Stream said.
"And oil money," jokes David Doane, who runs the center's petroleum program. "(Energy companies) have been so generous. We can't say that enough. We've gotten millions of dollars of free equipment and expertise."
Phil Corpella, who teaches students operation of heavy equipment, also has had his program benefit from the donations of local companies. WRJC has received brand-new excavators, back hoes and dump trucks -- some of which retail for half a million dollars.
Companies like ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy have a vested interest in the Job Corps, whose graduates may be tapped as future employees.
"They want to see what we turn out," Doane said. "They want to see if they're going to be what we say they are."
Doane's students leave the Job Corps with pipeline mechanical and industrial maintenance certifications. Like students in all of the WRJC programs, they spend four to six weeks working internships in the field before hitting the job market.
"We want to be able to check up on them in six months and see that they're still working," Doane said.
A Colorado chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers already has indicated it wants to hire at least 10 of the 13 current students in WRJC's heavy equipment program, and Corpella said his students can expect to make more than $60,000 immediately after graduating.
More than teaching a technical expertise, Doane said that one of the Job Corps's biggest challenges is teaching teenagers a good work ethic, especially in a generation where many "have the attention span of nothing."
"Work ethic is one of the biggest things that we want to instill in these students," Doane said. "That's what makes this so awesome. Hopefully, when they walk out of here, they're a better person."
The communal spirit has facilitated internal operations as well. When the truck driving program needed space for students to practice in, for example, Corpella had his students rolled their equipment in to clear space.
When electrical students were ready to start wiring, carpentry students built walls for them to practice on.
WRJC students also are set to help with the reconstruction of the Darcie Zimmer recreation trail in Riverton.