The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center closed in March 2007, at which point the National Park Service operated it, due to health and safety issues related to mold in the dining hall. The students were immediately transferred to other Job Corps Centers to complete their education and vocational training, with the U.S. Forest Service taking over operations in July 2008. The center reopened and new enrollees began arriving in September 2008.
Now, the Park Service is once more a partner in the endeavor after signing an agreement with the Forest Service in July.
“We are fortunate to have the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center in our backyard,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This partnership will allow hard-working youth an opportunity to acquire important trade skills as they work alongside park staff. These skills can help them transition into the workforce of tomorrow.”
Students at the center will get on-the-job training and hands-on experience by working with Smokies staff to protect resources, use prescribed fire, maintain facilities and run administration. They’ll also have the chance to receive important certifications during job training.
“We are truly elated to partner with the National Park Service,” said Oconaluftee Job Corps Center Director Jimmy Copeland. “This partnership brings education, awareness, and training opportunities to our youth thus creating pipelines for employment and resource awareness in their future. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an integral part of the success of our center and we are excited to work more closely with them in serving our communities.”
The Job Corps Center is inside the park near Cherokee. A nationwide program, the Job Corps is the nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program. It prepares economically disadvantaged youth ages 16-24 for productive employment. Centers are associated with national forests and grasslands and operated by the Forest Service under an interagency agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor.