Senator Tester stops for a visit at Anaconda Job Corps

Anaconda Leader

by James Rosien

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., got a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be a Job Corps student during a visit to Anaconda Job Corps Thursday morning.

Tester, the Junior Senator from Montana, toured all eight trades offered at the Job Corps Center, located west of Anaconda in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, after speaking in support of the word-based learning program.

“This is a good program, it helps young people be all they can be,” Tester said in a speech to Job Corps students and staff.

“The skills and trades they learn at Job Corps give them the training employers need,” he added in an interview afterward. “The skills that are delivered at Job Corps are the skills young people need to be able to succeed.”

Ray Ryan, center director in Anaconda, introduced the Senator and spoke about the country’s infrastructure needs that Job Corps students will fill.

“Senator Tester has long been an avid supporter of Job Corps,” Ryan said. “When this country finally gets around to repairing and replacing its infrastructure, these will be the folks who do the work. It’s going to take hard work, and the skills to do the work, to be the employees who can do this. It’s part of higher education that we don’t talk about enough.”

Tester said Job Corps needs to be talked about more so his colleagues in Congress will know the positive effects the program is having not make further cuts to it, citing HR 1, the continuing federal budget for 2011, as cutting Job Corps by two-thirds.

“We live in difficult economic and budgetary times, and a lot of folks want to take a hatchet to the budget, but we need to protect programs that do good work,” he said. “cut the programs that need to be cut and keep the good programs.”

Tester, who last visited Anaconda Job Corps in 2007, presented senatorial letters of achievement to the center’s August graduates, the first ones to receive the honor, which is now becoming an official part of Job Corps commencements.

He then took a tour of the vocational area to see students’ current projects, such as carpentry students making wall frames and heavy equipment operators making repairs.

The senator also took a moment to experience how Job Corps students learn, taking a turn at the controls of a training excavator used to prepare heavy equipment operators for work on full-size machines. Daniel Kuckler, a heavy-equipment student gave him some brief instructions before he completed the task of lifting and dropping a ball bearing into a cylinder.

“It’s great for the students to see a senator in person and not just as a face on TV,” Ryan said.

Next Tuesday, Kicking Horse Job Corps and Anaconda Job Corps will participate in National Job Corps Commencement Day. It will be the first time ever that a majority of the nation’s 147 centers have held events on the same day to acknowledge approximately 60,000 ne and recent graduates across the country.

Anaconda Job Corps serves over 220 students on its 70-acre campus and is one of 28 centers across 18 states operated by the USDA Forest Service.