Building a Better Life
If you ask most Johnson County residents about Camp Atterbury, they can certainly tell you what it is and give you a general idea of where it is. However, ask them about the Atterbury Job Corps Center, located across the road from Camp Atterbury, and you are likely to get “Gee I don’t really know much about it” or some information that isn’t accurate. Jeff Byrd, Business and Community Liaison, is aware of the perception of the Job Corps Center and wants area residents to know
more about it. He says the program is “Really about mentoring, working with young people to show them how to act to be successful.”
The Atterbury Job Corps Center has around 550 students at any given time. That makes it one of the largest Job Corps Centers in the US. About 60% of the students are from Indiana. No matter where they are from, they come for one reason – to better themselves, their opportunities, and their lives. Nobody is at the Center unless they want to be, and not everyone who wants to be gets into the program.
The program is one of the most successful parts of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. Private firms now manage all Job Corps programs. That change has reduced the cost and improved the program results. Is the program successful? Both Indiana US Representative Andre’ Carson and Governor Mike Pence are strong supporters of the program. If they agree on the value of the program, Job Corps must be a success.
Interested in working with the Atterbury Center:
Students are between the ages of 16 and 24 and come from economically-challenged backgrounds. There is no cost to the student or his/her family to attend Atterbury. It is a choice – and commitment – these young adults make. Typically, students spend about 8 to 11 months at the center. While there, they learn life and job skills. With 15 educational specialties at the Center, in addition to a GED program if a student needs it, there are a variety of options.
Building trades, including carpentry, masonry, and painting operate alongside programs for culinary arts, certified medical assistant, and heavy equipment operator. A number of the programs are union pre-apprenticeship training that leads to industry certification and, in many cases, a job. Job Corps education opportunities extend to college. If they qualify, students can stay in the program longer and earn an associate degree from Ivy Tech Community College.
The students also get off the “campus” and into the real world to gain valuable job experience. Job Corps students have served a variety of positions in restaurants and helped Franklin renovate streets, providing help with both masonry brick repair and concrete work. Students have worked in Nashville, Indianapolis, and with Franklin College. Their work with the Franklin Boys & Girls Club to renovate a facility saved the Club $20,000 in labor costs. Student work experience is often thought of as “internships,” but the students are considered employees of the Department of Labor. That makes it much easier for companies to work with Job Corps students. Byrd says the Center is always looking for new partnerships with businesses and communities and encourages anyone interested to contact him.
At Atterbury, the feeling is more of a community college than rural Johnson County. Students have recreational facilities. The Center’s basketball team won a national championship, but you don’t have to be a star to get some exercise. A gymnasium and fitness center keeps students in shape and helps burn off some stress. Students also have the opportunity fulfill leadership positions within the student body. Elected positions include President, Chief Justice, Ambassador, and Sergeant at Arms.
The Atterbury Job Corps Center is really a small town. It offers housing, recreation, food, health services, and educational facilities. The center purchases as much as possible from local businesses and employs more than 240 area residents. Therefore, in addition to improving lives of the students, the Atterbury facility has a significant positive impact on the local economy.
You can drive by the Center, hear about it from someone, or even read about it right here. However, until you take some time and learn about it you may not realize what the Atterbury Job Corps Center provides – not just to its students but to our community, state, and nation.