BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s job corps centers in Bangor and Limestone won’t accept new students for at least the next five months because the U.S. Department of Labor is trying to save money.
The Labor Department announced Jan. 28 that enrollment would be frozen at least until June 30 at all 125 centers across the nation as a “cost-saving measure,” according to a notice posted on national and local Job Corps websites.
“As part of ongoing efforts to ensure that the Job Corps program and its 125 centers across the country operate within current appropriated funding levels, Job Corps is temporarily suspending new student enrollment,” Department of Labor spokesman Edmund Fitzgerald said Wednesday afternoon.
“We estimate that, without action, Job Corps was on a path to exceed its operating budget by approximately $61.5 million. We are taking these steps, along with short- and long-term administrative changes, to ensure the program continues to serve the nation’s young people,” Fitzgerald said.
The Job Corps’ requested operating budget for 2013 was about $1.5 billion, a decrease of about $24 million from 2012, according to Department of Labor budget information.
Job Corps provides free job training in manufacturing, construction and other career paths. Training can take from eight months to two years, according the the Job Corps website.
Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that she was troubled by the enrollment freeze.
“Job Corps has compiled an impressive record of success in preparing disadvantaged youth for the workplace or higher education,” Collins said. “I am concerned not only by the financial woes facing the Job Corps program, but also by the decision to immediately prevent students from entering the program which could only worsen the problem.
“While we must certainly do all we can to ensure the appropriate use of federal funds during these challenging budgetary times, we must also maintain a commitment to successful programs that are important to the economic health of our communities.”
Sen. Angus King also expressed disappointment with the move.
“In the vast reaches of the Department of Labor budget there must be someplace where savings can be found without doing harm to vulnerable students,” he said in an email.
Students already enrolled in the centers will continue to receive instruction and training through Job Corps. With the freeze, Job Corps still expects to serve some 56,000 students in 2013, according to Fitzgerald.
Enrollment at Job Corps is open throughout the year on a rolling basis, Fitzgerald said. The department says that exceptions to the freeze will be made for applicants who are homeless, runaways or in foster care.
Both the Bangor and Loring Job Corps centers referred comment to Sen. Susan Collins’ office and the Department of Labor.
“This decision was not made lightly, and comes after considering and implementing alternatives to reduce program costs and stay within the budget for this important program,” Fitzgerald said. “We are not abandoning Job Corps centers.”
Applicants who were not enrolled by Jan. 28 will have their information kept on file until the freeze is lifted. At that time, an admissions counselor will contact applicants to confirm whether they’re still interested in enrolling.
There are nine Job Corps centers in New England: Bangor and Limestone; Vergennes, Vt.; Chicopee, Devens and North Grafton, Mass.; Hartford and New Haven, Conn.; and Exeter, R.I.
Individuals with questions about the suspension or enrollment may call 800-733-5627.