ROSEBURG, Oregon – Earlier this year, the federal government announced a controversial decision to transfer the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center program from the U.S. Department of Forest Services to the U.S. Department of Labor. The transfer meant 9 of the country’s 25 centers would permanently close. One of the centers to remain open directly impacts Umpqua Community College (UCC). Following a national outcry from representatives and the citizens they serve, the government reversed its decision in June. It meant the Wolf Creek Job Corps (WCJC) is here to stay.
Job Corps is a no-cost education and career technical training program that helps people between the ages of 16 and 24 improve their quality of life through education. Locally, operations at the Wolf Creek site have been fulfilled through a contract between the federal government and UCC for more than 50 years. Housing, food, basic toiletries, and on-the-job training are provided to students for free. Its capacity is 230 students.
The facility, which is located in rural Glide, is like a mini city. It has residence halls, a cafeteria, store, wellness center, gym, library, community garden, and more. Practically the only things you won’t find here are cell phone and internet service.
Training at the Center includes welding, carpentry, cement masonry, construction craft labor, office administration, culinary arts, forestry conservation, and firefighting. Off-Center training includes maintenance and light repair, and certified nurse assistant.
“Workforce development is our number one mission,” Center Director Gabe Wishart said. “Our goal is to turn disadvantaged youths into taxpayers. I tell students this is their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive this kind of support.”
For students like Krista Cornelius and Daniel Belcher, the Center is a life line. Both Douglas County residents would face homelessness and live life with no direction without the Center. Today, they are learning and earning their way.
“It seemed like a good program and I didn’t have anything else going on when I decided to come here,” Krista said. “I wanted to go to college after I graduated, but I didn’t have the money to do it. That’s one reason I’m here.”
Krista turned to Job Corps when her home life changed. Faced with the prospect of no place to live, the Oakland High School graduate took a leap of faith. She moved to the Wolf Creek facility and started to learn her new trade.
“I knew I’d be able to get jobs by studying business,” she said.
Now more than a year into her studies, Krista spends half her day working in the facility’s administration building. She spends the other half in class. She has learned basic computing, online safety, typing and general office skills, business English, proper phone etiquette, and how to clerically support the Center’s trades. With eight months left in the program, self-sufficiency is her next goal.
“I have learned so much here and I’ve gained many skills and new friends,” she said. “The training I have received has made me feel more confident about my future.”
Although Daniel Belcher did have a plan after he graduated from South Umpqua High School in 2012, he has traveled a similar path. Also facing homelessness outside of Job Corps, Daniel’s goal was to become the 8th generation of his family to join the military. He planned to join the U.S. Navy and become a Seabee. He lost hope after battling with his weight.
“When it came time to enlist, I had a 48-inch waist,” he said. “The maximum size is 39 inches.”
Plan dashed, Daniel turned to minimum-wage jobs to get by—months turned into years. Tired of the dead-end job life he was living, he found out about the Job Corps while looking for a better job at the Roseburg employment office.
“It was a wise decision to come here,” he said. “I’m definitely better off. The vocational training here is great.”
A woodworker since the age of 12, Daniel loves to swing a hammer. He chose construction craft labor—a trade where it’s done the most. He liked it so much, he decided to stay at Job Corps for another year and work on a second trade. He is getting close to finishing carpentry. Much smaller than when he started, he is also back on track to enlist in the military.
“This is definitely a place to build the future,” he said “I have good mentors and role models here. They are putting me on a path for a better future.”
Students who complete the program are tracked for one year. Where they work and how much they earn are important. Although many students are from out of the area, many end up staying to work for local employers such as Roseburg Forest Products, North River Welding, the U.S. Forest Service, and others.
To learn more, visit wolfcreek.jobcorps.gov.
About Umpqua Community College
Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.
Kathy Hutchinson – Contact
UCC Adult Basic Skills
Education Support Specialist