U.S. Department of Labor reverses course on Job Corps Center closures


Adam Wells, Regional Director of Community and Economic Development
adam@appvoices.org, 276-807-8269

Cat McCue, Communications Director
cat@appvoices.org, 434-293-6373

The Department of Labor announced late yesterday that it is withdrawing its proposal to close nine federal job-training centers around the country, including the Flatwoods center in Coeburn, Va.

“We applaud our local and regional elected officials, community leaders, and local residents who all spoke out against the proposal to shut down Flatwoods and other Job Corps locations,” said Adam Wells, Regional Director of Community and Economic Development for Appalachian Voices. “This event demonstrates our community’s ability to mobilize quickly in the face of threats to our local economy and to the places that symbolize our values.”

The nine Civilian Conservation Corp centers initially targeted for closure include several in rural areas of Appalachia. Three of them — in Coeburn, Virginia, and in Frenchburg and Pine Knot in Kentucky — serve coal-mining communities that are facing significant economic distress. Several lawmakers of both sides of the aisle criticized the plan in public statements and in letters to the labor department.

“Senators Kaine and Warner’s opposition to the initial proposal to terminate the existence of the Flatwoods Job Corps was overwhelmingly loud and in direct response to the needs of the region and workforce,” said Jack Kennedy, Wise County Circuit Court Clerk and civic leader. “I am pleased with the bipartisanship demonstrated in standing up with voice to stop the executive order. We need to exercise more to gain greater investment, not just to defend existing assets.”

The Department of Labor’s statement indicates it will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which operates the Job Corps centers, to conduct a robust organizational review to determine the appropriate course of action keeping in mind the Forest Service’s mission, the Job Corps students’ needs, and taxpayers’ interests.

“Appalachian Voices and Southwestern Virginia communities will advocate for continued and increased support of the Flatwoods Job Corps Center, which provides vital services to young adults and to the local economy,” said Chelsea Barnes, New Economy Program Manager for Appalachian Voices.