Job Corps to step up recruitment

Oct 8, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Responsibility for recruiting and admissions at the Wind River Job Corps in Riverton is set to change hands next month.

A group called CHP International previously handled that facet of the center's operations, but beginning Nov. 1, Management and Training Corporation - the company that covers all other Wind River Job Corps operations - will take on recruitment as well.

New center director Jim Whitmire said MTC's corporate office will handle the transition, so he can't guarantee CHP's local recruiters will remain in place.

"I really can't answer that right now," he said. "There's a process. ... MTC will review and meet with those existing staff members."

He added that, "MTC is really good to people when these things happen."

300 target

CHP has three recruiters in the state but only one in Fremont County: Orion Morris of Riverton. Former center director Julie Gassner has praised his work, which earned him recognition in 2016 as CHP International's admissions counselor of the year and the Wind River Job Corps outreach and admissions employee of the year.

Regardless, enrollment totals at Wind River have lagged consistently. Job Corps officials had hoped to reach the center's capacity of 300 students by January 2016, but enrollment continues to hover at fewer than 200 students.

Rule changes

The problem may have something to do with behavioral rules for Job Corps students, which became stricter last year due to changes by the U.S. Department of Labor. As a result, the likelihood of students getting kicked out of the Wind River Job Corps for violence or alcohol violations has increased.

Whitmire told members of Riverton's economic development committee last week that the stringent new disciplinary rules may have gone "a little overboard."

"You could have a student who's been with you for 300 days, but (they) get caught up in a moment and (they're) going home," he said. "It's extremely tough. ... Any time you lose a student, it's not a good feeling."

He went on to express empathy for the students affected.

"When I was 18 or 19, I made some bone-headed mistakes," he said. "I would have been removed -- multiple times."

Later, however, he told The Ranger that strict rules encourage more businesses to hire Job Corps students.

"It's the policy, and it's there for a reason," he said. "We're teaching students how to be employable."

Weekly meeting

In another attempt to keep students driven and focused, Whitmire has implemented weekly "business meetings" during which all students and staff gather for a "festive event."

"Most of it is to celebrate the success of the week," he said.

The approach helps students continuously appreciate the value of their "12 month investment," he said; it also allows them to talk about "early trends that we need to address as a team" and increases student understanding of the risks they face if they violate policies.

Whitmire said students have reacted positively to the meetings, and he feels he's developed a good rapport with them.

"Our students are really good at knowing who's faking the funk - they have a very good funk-meter," he said. "When they know you're genuine, it doesn't come across as patronizing."

Counseling background

When Whitmire came to the Wind River Job Corps, he said his first focus was case management for each student.

He wanted to start "identifying students' needs early" so the Job Corps staff could begin "working as a team to help the student resolve those issues."

"My background is in counseling, and that's where I started," he said. "So that's the first place I look, and I know what impact that can have on student performance."

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Jim Whitmire, new Wind River Job Corps director. Photo by Dan Bendtsen

Jim Whitmire, new Wind River Job Corps director. Photo by Dan Bendtsen

Jim Whitmire, new Wind River Job Corps director. Photo by Dan Bendtsen

Jim Whitmire, new Wind River Job Corps director. Photo by Dan Bendtsen

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