“An investment in knowledge is the best investment,” predicted Benjamin Franklin.
Since 1964, the Federal government has been making an investment in knowledge through the Job Corps program. Since its inception, it has trained and educated approximately 2 million economically disadvantaged young people from the ages of 16 through 24.
With 122 Job Corps centers located in 48 states, the Boston area’s headquarters is the Shriver Job Corps Center; its campus is located on Devens, where 300 students live and study.
Job Corps, whose mantra is, “Success Lasts A Lifetime,” is a unique, no-cost program which combines skills training in 100 occupational areas as well as housing, hands-on training and internships along with classroom curriculums. Additionally, the program provides its students with housing, meals, basic medical care and a living stipend provided bi-weekly while students are enrolled in the program. Each career training program is a self-paced curriculum and can last from eight to 12 months. Students may join any of the vocational programs at any time during the year and their graduation and completion certificate is based on the date of their enrollment and the satisfactory completion of their training.
Upon graduation, each Job Corps center provides career transition support for close to two years to assist in job placement and to help graduates adjust to an independent, self-directed lifestyle. The Shriver Job Corps also has partnerships with local community colleges and actively assists students if their next stop will be college.
Applicants can choose from training in the construction trades, such as carpentry, painting (as in walls and surfaces) and cement masonry, as well as in automotive technician, beautician, advanced clerical occupations, office administrations, advanced computer systems, computer technician, security and protective services, nurse assistant and the culinary arts. Beyond the certificate program there are opportunitities for advanced training.
Because the Job Corps provides not only career training, but social and life skills, it has one of the highest success rates for solid employment for its graduates and 90 percent go on to private-sector careers or move on to higher education. Additionally, students enjoy one-on-one mentoring. For those living on campus, there are full recreational facilities, community service projects and student government associations.
The criteria for applicants at any Job Corps center include the age requirements as well as being a legal U.S. citizen, and having certain income eligibility. Interested applicants start the process by calling or visiting the Shriver Job Corps center.
Two of the most popular programs include the culinary arts program with chef instructor Chris Napurano, who is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. Chris is a high-energy, can-do guy who clearly has found his home. He describes himself as “47 years young” and when speaking about his role at Shriver his passion and concern for each of his students lights up his face. The joy and career satisfaction he has found there he says is “instant gratification.”
“I began here in November of 2010. I spend close to nine hours each day with 24 terrific kids — well, I call them kids — and helping them achieve the skills and industry prospective they need to make it on their own is a privilege for me. Now that I am here I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life, I would do this for free. Please don’t quote me on that,” he says, laughing.
“This is a serious course which takes 12 to 15 months to complete. At the end of the course, there is a test and a certificate of completion. The course provides on-the-job expertise as well as classroom work. We take field trips together and I choose to expose them to places and people they should be aware of. We do catering projects together and it’s my job to not only train them to be great employees, but to help them grow as people.”
One of Shriver’s culinary students is 23-year-old Jackie Sanchez who graduated this past April. She is currently attending Northern Essex Community College and is seeking employment in a restaurant kitchen. “This was a great program for me and the perfect way to start me on my career path. Currently I am taking general studies in college, but I hope to advance my culinary career.”
Another popular program is the painting program, taught by Al Gomes. This intensive program takes 8 to 12 months to complete, which includes real-time and hands-on instruction related to painting and refinishing of all kinds of surfaces, paint coloring and tinting, wood finishing and drywall finishing and repair. Training and certification also includes a 10-hour program on safety, which is the nationally known OSHA program.
The Shriver Job Corps, 270 Jackson Road, Devens, provides a weekly campus and classroom tour each Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Contact the Center for information at 978-784-2600, shriver.jobcorps.gov, or www.jobcorps.org.