Department of Labor shuts down Golconda Job Corps - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Department of Labor shuts down Golconda Job Corps

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GOLCONDA -- A six page report from the U.S. Department of Labor describes a "negative campus culture," something six years of attempted fixes could not change at the Golconda Job Corps Center, resulting in its closure. 

The closure of the job corps has people in Golconda worried about the future of their already struggling town.

But the loss of another major employer in the region didn't come as a surprise to Janet Bowman. 

"Here the job corps is shutting down, General Tire shut down, United States enrichment shut down...just numerous, every time you turn around something's shutting down," Bowman said. 

With the closure of the Golconda Job Corps, as many as 60 staff lost their jobs. 33 students attended the campus, a lower number than the 187-capacity because of an enrollment freeze to try to stabilize the campus. 

Bowman said they won't have much luck in the small town of 700 trying to find work. 

"In this area there's just nothing. There's part time, minimum wage, no benefits," Bowman said. 

She knows because the business she worked at for 20 years shut down a few years ago. After going back to school, then back on the job hunt, she's just now found work almost 45 miles away in Anna.

"I'll probably be working a 16-hour shift, driving 47 miles a day to try to support my family," she said. 

The Department of Labor said it closed the Golconda center because of repeated failed attempts to make the campus safer for students and staff. They report multiple discipline problems and a lack of notification when serious incidents occur. 

Some examples listed in the DOL report included repeated sanitary and hygiene issues in the culinary arts program, misreported riots on the Golconda campus and 46 students who went missing, only to show up later, intoxicated. That offense should have resulted in automatic expulsion of the students but the Golconda Job Corps let them stay.

But the main thing on residents minds is how much more job loss Pope County can take. 

"I don't want to leave but if there ain't nowhere to work, what are you going to do? I don't want to live on welfare. I don't want my children living on welfare. I am a hardworking woman, everyone in this town is hardworking people they just want a job," Bowman said. 

The Golconda Job Corps will close completely, August 19th. The Forest Service describes that closure as temporary, but people who live there have their doubts about that.

The news has both U.S. Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois, and Dick Durbin, Illinois, joining forces with Rep. John Shimkus, Illinois, from the other side of the aisle. They released a joint statement calling on the Department of Labor to make sure this is only temporary. 

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