The Hippo


Feb 25, 2020








The new Job Corps campus. Courtesy photo.

Student expectations
Job Corps targets young, low-income Granite Staters

By Ryan Lessard

It took more than a year and $32 million to construct, but the 146,000-combined-square-foot seven-building campus nestled in 20 acres of northwest Manchester is finally gearing up to admit students into the Job Corps program, which many hope will close an employability gap for poor youth.

Students must meet specific age and income criteria and adhere to program requirements, including a zero-tolerance policy, uniforms and chores. In return, the Jobs Corps Center provides training, classes and housing free of charge. 
“That’s the beauty of the program,” said Tamer Koheil, director of the new Manchester center.
Student profile
Koheil says the mission of the center is simple: train young, disadvantaged people to become employable and hopefully employed. There are about 125 centers like this across the country, but New Hampshire and Wyoming were tied as the last states to adopt the federal program.
“We have all the successful tools and setup to make sure students come in, get whatever they need to be successful and get a good career. Not just a job,” Koheil said.
That includes dorms that house up to 268 of the 300 students it can serve at any given time. There are two dorm buildings, one for men and another for women. Each room has four beds.
“Sometimes we get students that are homeless. Sometimes we get students that have a really bad home situation,” Koheil said. “We do a transition plan with them, once we identify that, so we will separate the student after they get their academic and vocational training to a homeless shelter or something like that.”
To be eligible, students must be anywhere from 16 to 24 years old.
“Besides the age, there is income eligibility,” Koheil said. “They have to be under the poverty line.”
The poverty line set by the federal government for the contiguous states in 2015 is $11,770 for an individual and scales up for families based on their size. 
Many of the students the center will serve may not have completed high school or need to brush up on their English or math. Koheil says the program offers classes and tutors to bring them up to speed and offer HiSET high school equivalency tests.
In addition to eligibility, Koheil said they also look at suitability. The center has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Drug tests are administered on the second day of the program, and if a student’s test comes back positive, they have 40 days probation to clean up. Felony arrests, sexual assaults and physical assaults are also grounds for immediate expulsion.
While it’s not required that students be from the state, Koheil says they’ll take priority.
Campus culture
The daily life for a Job Corps student is highly regimented.
“Students get up in the morning, they take breakfast, then, after that, they have academics from 8 to 3:30. Then they will be dismissed to a dorm meeting. They’re given expectations, they’re given chores,” Koheil said. “It’s a very structured program. A uniform is given and it’s expected to [be worn] correctly.”
While there is opportunity for recreation in the rec building — which has a full basketball court, a gym and a space for pool tables — some free time will be used for community projects.
“What we expect, because it’s a federal program and it’s actually based on taxpayer dollars, from Week 2, students in their career preparation period, which is about five weeks ... will be taken to off-center community service,” Koheil said.
He says this kind of work is important to the students to learn to give back.
There’s also a point system to reward good behavior and grades.
“We have a score from 1 to 5, 1 being unacceptable, 5 being exceptional, and we’re looking for students to be graded in their living area ... and their academic and their vocational area,” Koheil said.
Those who score well are awarded things like Walmart gift cards and group trips to the movies or hiking trips.
The programs
Each student picks one of nine trades to learn.
“We have advanced manufacturing ... we have electrical, we have facility maintenance, we have hotel and lodging, we have culinary arts, we have security and protective services,” Koheil said.
There are also three medical programs, including Licensed Nursing Assistant and Certified Medical Assistant.
Toward the end of the first week, students take skills assessment tests that  inform their case managers what level of academic classwork is required. The students then pick a few trades they want to job shadow to see if they might be interested and confirm or change their trade selection after the third week.
Culinary arts training will take place in the same building as the cafeteria while the rest will be in the education building or off-site at businesses partnering with the center. The education building has 15 classrooms including a large area for about eight CNC mills and lathes that will cost $20,000 to $30,000 each. The center is also in the process of acquiring medical equipment like beds and EKGs as well as mannequins to stand in as patients.
The length of the program varies by student and trade.
“The maximum for students to stay in Job Corps for a regular trade is two years,” Koheil said. “It’s tailored to every single student.” 
As seen in the July 16, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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