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Job Corps numbers

Sep 21, 2016 By Steven R. Peck

They are perfectly adequate, and they are likely to grow as economy improves

Let's not get too hung up on numbers at Wind River Job Corps.

A little more than a year into the federally-funded training facility's operations in Riverton, Job Corps is operating at less than full volume. Introductory plans estimated Job Corps could be training about 300 young people at peak capacity. At the moment, actual enrollment is something closer to 200.

This is still new, remember. Wind River Job Corps is the first Job Corps Center in Wyoming, having been established only after dozens more Job Corps Centers were been placed in other states. All of those states are more populated than Wyoming. All of those Job Corps are more well-established, with more local word of mouth to rely on, more history to refer to, and simply a longer record of operations to demonstrate to the public and potential enrollees.

Frankly, here in central Wyoming we are still getting used to the presence of Job Corps. That goes for young people who might train there as well. The longer the center is in operation, the more it will rise to "top of mind" status when it comes to employment offices, school guidance offices, to businesses looking for trained workers, and to families and individuals.

Recruiting female trainees has been a bigger challenge than anticipated. After a year of operations, that fact is well-established and accepted by Job Corps management, and recruiting efforts among young women are going to be adjusted. That alone could boost the enrollment figure closer to the 300 mark a year from now.

Wind River Job Corps is about to walk a few dozen new graduates down the aisle this week, their training complete, their qualifications for employment in their specialized fields in place and on display. Please don't tell them that Job Corps is underperforming. They have taken full advantage of the facility and its services, and their presence atFriday'sgraduation exercises will demonstrate it for all.

Enrollment in most Fremont County School Districts is down this year so far. Central Wyoming College has seen an enrollment decline. When University of Wyoming president Laurie Nichols gave her first "state of the university" speech last week, she said the most important thing UW faces in the coming years is the need to increase enrollment. Job Corps, it seems, is not alone and having some unused capacity.

Job Corps's success is not tied to a specific head count. It is tied to consistency, instruction, education and, ultimately, employment.

When it was established, Wind River Job Corps was unique in the nation in having an energy industry component occupying a large portion of its curriculum. A few years ago, when construction west of Riverton was beginning, the Wyoming oil and gas economy was booming. Now it isn't. Our state's history suggests, strongly, that the industry will rise again. When that happens, watch Job Corps boom as well.

If Wind River Job Corps had just 50 trainees, then there would be something to worry about. The fact that it has 200 instead of 250 in September 2016 will, through the years, fade to become one statistic among many compiled during the center's history. There will be ups and downs, periods of bigger enrollment and smaller. Wind River Job Corps will experience them all. It is here for the long haul.

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