CHADRON, Neb. - (KNEP) - The Pine Ridge Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is faced with uncertainty after told centers will be closing.
Chadron and the Pine Ridge Job Corp. Center hope to save the program (source Pine Ridge Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center)
Community Relations Committee Chairman Clayton Riesen stated they were told by September 30th of this year the Department of Labor would take over the center. With this, comes the loss of 60 jobs in the area and numerous kids who volunteer and receive union certifications to become a member of the workforce.
Riesen added it came as a shock to many and is hoping they and the community can come together to save the center.
These kids, who are a part of the program, help in all different facets including masonry, painting of city owned property, upkeep, setting up of fairs and helping the forest service.
Riesen is nervous to think what the loss of this program would have for just the forest service let alone the entire area. He feels the loss of these jobs will force individuals to leave the area. The individuals involved were a major part of the fighting of wildfires in 2006 and have gone to other parts of the country to fight as well.
The move will force communities to outsource the work with contracted businesses. The center hasn’t been told the exact plans but was told some of the classes kids could take would include online work. Riesen noted contracted workers won’t be able to help the forest service at all.
This is not only a move that hurts Chadron and Western Nebraska, but the state as a whole. The corp. sees 80% of their students come from the eastern side of the state.
Riesen added that in 2019 alone, the corp. worked on 30 projects totaling 14,779 hours of labor. He is unsure how or if the area could afford the upkeep of some of the projects that involve the knowledge of a trained professional like what they receive from the corp. Reisen is also unsure in another 5-10 years where they would even come from.
For now, they are voicing their concerns to lawmakers in Lincoln and hoping they can save the center before the September deadline.