The campus of Blue Ridge Jobs Corps is far quieter than usual this autumn, but the educational institution is still at work training young people to join the workforce.
The Marion center’s new director, Neal Randol, updated the Marion Town Council at its most recent meeting.
While the center, an operation of the U.S. Department of Labor, has a capacity for 192 students, Randol said only three students in advanced training programs are learning on site. The vast majority of BRJC’s students are studying virtually.
Randol told the local government leaders that no date for reopening has been set at this time, but he hopes it’s sooner rather than later. He said the center’s staff is working to keep student engagement high, noting that they have even organized and hosted a virtual spirit week.
Since all staff members are on-site, Randol said that beautification and updating work is under way. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re continuing to develop training opportunities for young people,” he said.
The Marion center focuses on health-care related careers.
According to the BRJC website, “Job Corps is a no-cost education and career technical training program administered… that helps young people ages 16 to 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training…. At Blue Ridge Job Corps Center, we support the Job Corps program’s mission to teach eligible young people the skills they need to become employable and independent and place them in meaningful jobs or further education.”
Randol proudly announced that out of 121 Job Corps centers, the Marion one is ranked at 23rd. The ranking is determined by a Department of Labor performance system. The new director emphasized that the center will continue to strive for even better rankings.
Councilman Avery Cornett praised Randol, saying that he has a diverse background. Cornett said he believes Randol will do good work at the Marion center.
Mayor David Helms told Randol that the town is proud to have BRJC in Marion. He especially noted the community service undertaken by the students when they’re on campus.
Volunteerism is emphasized as a part of the Job Corps training.
The News & Messenger hoped to interview Randol this summer, but was told in an email that “he cannot give an interview to any member of the press for publication. The Department of Labor does not permit media coverage.”