The Trump administration announced Friday that it would end a Forest Service program that provides free job training to disadvantaged young people at rural training sites, including one in Cass, Ark.
Some centers are to be closed and some privatized or taken over by states. The center in Arkansas is one of nine slated for closure.
The move will cost 1,100 jobs nationwide, the largest layoff of civil servants since military base realignment nine years ago. It will end annual training for some 3,000 people aged 16 to 24 for such jobs as fire fighting.
The Cass Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center sits north of the Mulberry River on Highway 23, familiarly known as the Pig Trail. Its training includes such trades as welding, carpentry, bricklaying, heavy equipment operation and culinary arts.
The Job Corps is a 1964 program begun by Sargent Shriver, but it has roots in the Roosevelt-era New Deal. Members of Congress in both parties have objected to the closure, but none from Arkansas is quoted in the Post article. It came as a surprise to some.
Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, clearly distressed at having to relay unsettling news to her employees, announced the layoffs in a conference call Friday morning. She told hundreds of teachers, administrators, vocational and residential staff on the phone from multiple states that she learned of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision four days ago.
“We don’t have all the answers,” Christiansen told the employees, many of whom asked when and how they would be formally notified that they would lose their jobs and whether they would receive paychecks until that happens.
The USDA said it needed to focus on programs dedicated to its “core” mission. The Labor Department will take over the program. This move doesn’t affect urban Job Corps programs operated by the Labor Department.