On Oct. 4, 1966, 14 young men stepped off a bus into part of the old Naval Supply Depot in Clearfield to begin the Clearfield Job Corps Center - one of the first of 105 Job Corps centers now open nationwide.
This year, Job Corps centers, alumni, students and employees are celebrating the 25 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson gave life to Job Corps as part of his war on poverty program. Unlike most of Johnson's Great Society programs, Job Corps has survived shifting political tides, not to mention the budget ax."I think the reason that Job Corps has survived is, number one, the kids have benefited. It is the only program that serves this particular population," said Don Temple, Weber Basin Job Corps Center director.
Craig Sudbury, director of the Clearfield Job Corps Center, credits the program's longevity to an "unrelenting faith in the potential of youth."
Temple, who began with Job Corps at a center in the rural Midwest in 1965, said that it was first thought the program could help wipe out unemployment among the nation's impoverished youth in a decade.
"The story was we would have the poverty situation taken care of in 10 years and our jobs would no longer exist," Temple said. "I guess 24 years later we haven't got there yet."
Barbara Aikens, a Weber Basin office services supervisor, agrees.
"There are social and environmental problems today that seem to put a program like Job Corps at a premium," said Aikens, who was a staff member in the now-defunct Office of Economic Opportunity that developed the Job Corps program.
Aikens will be among those honored at a Job Corps celebration in Washington, D.C., in April. She, like Temple, remembers how many times she thought politicians might cut the Job Corps over the years.
"We went for almost 20 years with being under the threat of closure every day, except during the four years of the Carter administration," Temple said. "If there wasn't enough support to keep Job Corps going, and if the results weren't overwhelmingly positive, we wouldn't be standing today. Certainly we have had enough powerful folks take shots at us."
As Johnson intended when he first announced anti-poverty legislation in March 1964, Job Corps still gives job training to youths, ages 16 to 21. Little else, however, remains the same, including the addition of much more sophisticated job training and socialization programs.
Sudbury, who directs the third largest Job Corps center in the nation, said while job training and education have always been important, the added social skills programs have given the program its real merit.
"It is singular in its scope and unique in its ability to meet the needs of its clients," he said.
The typical youth served by Job Corps is an 18-year-old high school dropout who reads at the elementary school level, comes from a poor family, belongs to a minority group and has never had a full-time job. About 65 percent of those who participate in Job Corps find employment. About 15 percent continue their education or obtain futher training, the U.S. Department of Labor reports.
Training now being offered to Job Corps members has evolved from the early days of conservation and forestry projects patterned after work performed by the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps. Today, Utah's two Job Corps centers - Clearfield and Weber Basin - offer everything from a popular auto mechanic program, sponsored by the United Auto Workers, to the operation of heavy equipment.
The requirement that students' homes be at least 500 miles away from the center where they receive training was dropped long ago. For example, 18 percent of the 1,720 students at Utah's two Job Corps centers are from the state. And both the State Office of Education and Job Corps recruiters would like to see even more Utah dropouts attend, said Barbara Timper, who manages the Job Corps recruiting office in Salt Lake City.
"It makes sense if you just talk about the economics of it," Temple said. "We're saying it would not be impossible to make this (Weber Basin) an all-Utah center within a couple of years."
2 Job Corps serving Utah
Clearfield Job Corps Center
Location: Freeport Center, Clearfield
When opened: October 1966
Number of students: 1,470; 1,150 men, 320 women
Number of students served: More than 60,000
Annual budget: $16 million
Training offered: auto mechanic, cook, machine operator, offset press operator, heating and air conditioning mechanic, clerk and general office worker.
Weber Basin Job Corps Center
Location: South Weber
When opened: December 1965
Number of students: 250; 184 men, 66 women
Number of students served: 10,300
Annual budget: $3.2 million
Training offered: cook, building maintenance, welder, clerk, general office worker, carpenter, cement mason, painter, bricklayer and heavy equipment operator.
Source: Job Corps officials and U.S. Department of Labor