Dept. of Labor postpones FHJCC management change

Published 10:00 am Friday, April 28, 2017

Dept. of Labor postpones FHJCC  management change

Those who have followed the development of the Finch-Henry Job Corps Center in Batesville now for 40 years are concerned about an abrupt Department of Labor decision to end the contract with Minact, Inc. for its management and award it to DESI (Dynamic Education System, Inc., and Exodyne Co).
We have nothing for or against DESI, but having closely followed the center under Minact’s management since its opening, we have watched the center expand and mature to meet changing needs, especially for youth who might otherwise be considered at risk for underemployment or worse.
During the early years of its operation, many local residents mistakenly regarded the facility as something of a glorified reform school and few of the students attempted to measure down to those expectations. That perception was overcome many years ago and not because center management implemented some kind of draconian discipline measures.
Instead FHJCC staff from top to bottom learned to motivate students by instilling a sense of pride and privilege into students that became evident in any and every aspect of life on and off campus. It is even evident in students’ demeanor. Once students have been on center for a few weeks, they become outgoing, greeting visitors enthusiastically and carrying themselves with pride in who and where they are.
The performance of FHJCC students and staff is measured monthly by exhaustive criteria that counts student achievement toward GEDs or high school diplomas and mastering work skills. The students are also tracked after graduation to determine whether they get a job, whether it is in their trained field, how much they are making and whether they are still working six and 12 months after they leave FHJCC.
With the present FHJCC faculty and staff under the leadership of Center Director Cordella Smith we have seen FHJCC’s monthly rankings climb from very low among the nation’s 126 Job Corps centers to consistent ranking among the top 25 or 30 centers. And almost always FHJCC ranks top among the nation’s Job Corps centers for student safety.
Furthermore, in recent years FHJCC has developed partnerships and cooperative agreements with local school districts, with Northwest Mississippi Community College and with local businesses that offer FHJCC students expanded opportunities for further education and on-the-job training.
FHJCC students and staff are always present as volunteers when help is needed for any community project.
The good news is that on Monday, the Department of Labor issued an order to postpone a transition to new management while Minact, Inc. appeals the decision. We applaud this step to take more time to consider what appears to have been an abrupt and arbitrary move not based on Minact’s performance at the Batesville center.
Remember the admonition: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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