Leadership Corner

USDA announces new vision for Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers

October 4th, 2019 at 9:37AM
Portrait of Chief Christiansen in uniform.
Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen

In late September, Secretary Perdue and I visited the Jobs Corps national headquarters and the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver, Colorado. We engaged with the Job Corps leadership team, several Job Corps center directors and forest supervisors and all regional employees. Secretary Perdue delivered a call to action: He asked us to connect our Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers directly to our mission, to spark new ideas and renew our commitment to improving the performance of our centers and our student outcomes.

We have a promising opportunity to answer that call to action with our 24 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers. Our Job Corps faculty and students embody the Forest Service values of service, interdependence, conservation, diversity and safety. And while our nation’s forests and grasslands face historic challenges, the centers have the potential to help us. Our Jobs Corps CCCs can ease hiring challenges in forestry, firefighting and conservation while showing rural and urban youth a path toward high-quality jobs as the next generation of land managers.
So I am calling on all Job Corps centers—indeed, all of us in the Forest Service—to find more ways to integrate Job Corps into the fabric of our agency to help meet our most critical mission needs. This includes work to combat wildfire and to sustain and improve our infrastructure. Our Job Corps CCCs can help us with priority work on roads, trails, bridges, water and waste water treatment systems and all of the other componets we use to manage and protect all of the other resources.

More specifically, the steps we are taking to reinvigorate our Job Corps program are to:

  • Revisit Public Lands Corps agreements between each Forest Service Region and Job Corps center. We will focus on giving students learning opportunities while they help the agency meet our performance targets and improve forest conditions. We intend to create a workforce pipeline that runs from Job Corps centers to national forests and grasslands that need the skills of Job Corps graduates.
  • Connect hiring managers to Job Corps centers that offer a fire and natural resource related curricula. Our direct-hire authority for key fire positions expires in August 2020. However, in the time we have left we will find and recruit eligible applicants to strengthen our firefighting ranks and help build the case for renewing this authority as part of an apprenticeship program.
  • Develop a curriculum for our CCCs based on the needs of nearby national forests and grasslands and local communities.  We are starting this initiative by gathering all Job Corps center directors together to map our new vision for the program. Our goal is to create consistency in how we manage and lead these centers.  
  • Develop an alumni network of Job Corps graduates who are Forest Service employees. I am calling on alumni to share their experiences in how they made a successful transition from the classroom to working for the Forest Service. Make yourself count.  You’re an example of how successful completion of an apprenticeship program might look like to our students. Share your thoughts in this forum thread by Oct. 11, 2019.
  • Improve our customer service to students. We will ensure the centers create a safe and positive learning environment for every Job Corps team member and student. We will promote effective outreach and recruitment, focus on apprenticeships, provide career and graduation coaching and include counseling support for our students. All of these improvements in service to our students will improve the pathway to high-quality jobs.
  • Create a Forest Supervisor Advisory Panel to modernize our performance management framework. The panel will help standardize Job Corps oversight strategies. The panel’s input will build interdependence between Job Corps CCCs and the mission critical work of our forests and grasslands.
  • Share resources and align with U.S. Department of Labor goals.  Our goal is to work with DOL to expand Job Corps Center partners to leverage resources and strengthen student placement to job markets such as those that help improve forest conditions.We will facilitate alignment by relocating the Job Corps national director to Washington, D.C., allowing for easier participation in strategic planning with DOL.  

We will realize the Secretary’s vision to renew our commitment to our Job Corps centers. We must approach the challenge with shared leadership and a commitment to steward the whole.

Thank you to our Job Corps center staff and leadership! I admire your strength, resilience, passion, and commitment to this complex program. You are part of us, and we will support you in every way possible.  I look forward to moving forward together with our Job Corps team and students and with all agency employees.

People seated in a circle in a conference room.
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Jim Hubbard listens to Job Corps alumni Oct. 2 at the USDA Forest Service Washington Office, Washington, D.C. USDA Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo.