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Shoveling it: Job Corps breaks city ground

On Tuesday five New Hampshire politicians (Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte) eagerly shoveled dirt at the groundbreaking of what is to be a $35 million Job Corps complex in the city. The U.S. Secretary of Labor was there, too, shoveling more than dirt.

Job Corps is a federal program that offers job training to people aged 16-24. At the groundbreaking, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez claimed that Job Corps was "one of the most enduring and effective workforce development and anti-poverty programs in the history of workforce development efforts." He said the program had a "quite impressive" return on investment.

Those are interesting claims coming from the Secretary of Labor. In 2007 the Labor Department's own review found that Job Corps understated its costs by as much as $50,000 per student and overstated its effectiveness. For example, if a Job Corps graduate trained in the tech field took a fast-food job instead, Job Corps counted that as a successful job placement.

With an annual budget of $1.6 billion, Job Corps graduates 60,000 students a year. That's a cost of $26,000 per student. For that, students earn a GED or get vocational training. Manchester Community College already offers inexpensive vocational training and free GED classes.

A federal program that spends $1.6 billion a year to duplicate the efforts of local community colleges should be no one's idea of a useful initiative. And yet our politicians act thrilled that it is coming to Manchester. There could hardly be a better illustration of the rule that in politics it is what you appear to be doing, not what you actually do, that matters most.

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