ETR, former Job Corps operator, returning to run site in Medina

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 21 November 2020 at 9:57 am

Student population will be reduced during Covid pandemic with strict protocols in place

MEDINA – When the Covid pandemic hit in March, 36,000 students nationwide were sent home from Job Corps centers.

With the announcement that students are slowly being phased back to the Iroquois Job Corps comes the news the center will again be under the management of Education and Training Resources (ETR), headquartered in Bowling Green, Ky., effective Dec. 1.

ETR’s CEO Brian Fox made the announcement via Zoom at the Orleans County Legislature meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

ETR was the former manager of Job Corps for 12 1/2 years through 2017, Fox said. He said ETR is transitioning the center, with the current incumbent operator still having responsibility and operational authority, so ETR is not authorized at this point to speak on any specific matters involving Iroquois Job Corps.

“I can, however, provide an overview of what to expect following Dec. 1,” Fox said.

“We are no stranger to the Iroquois Job Corps Center,” Fox said. “We are proud to be back and be part of the Medina, Orleans County, GLOW and Western New York communities. We thank you for the opportunity to be your manager again. We will strive to be good partners to Western New York.”

Fox added, under ETR’s new contract, they will be focusing a lot of the Center’s outreach and recruitment of new students from within the nine-county Western New York area.

Fox added this is obviously a change from the past, but a positive one in that it focuses heavily on enrolling and serving Job Corps eligible students from Western New York and less on sending larger number of students from New York City. He said the credit for this new local and regional focus goes to the United States Department of Labor, which recently implemented a National Enrollee Assignment Plan for all Job Corps centers across the nation.

“Our goal is to enroll about 300 new students per year from the counties of Orleans, Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming, Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Yates and Seneca,” Fox said. “Additionally, the Iroquois Center will receive about 150 students per year from within the five counties of Niagara, Erie, Allegheny, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus, through applicant referrals from the Cassadaga Job Corps Center. Lastly, the Iroquois Center may also receive up to 100 students from the New York City area.”

According to Fox, the USDOL has begun selecting centers to reopen, with very strict protocols, testing and quarantine requirements in place. Before arrival, 100 percent of staff are tested for Covid and required to be negative. Upon arrival, all students are tested and required to be negative. Any student testing positive will be isolated and returned home.

Students testing negative are quarantined for 14 days in a dorm room with virtual learning resources in place; and then retested again. If negative, their cohort group can move to in-person training in classrooms, but will not mix with other cohort groups until all protocols are completed.

The Iroquois center’s director will be Dennis Essom of Cheektowaga, who said he was excited to be working for ETR at the Iroquois Job Corps.

“This is the first Job Corps I went to when I started, and I know these gentlemen there,” he said. “I love the community, this center and the staff.”

Skip Draper of Medina, who has worked at the Job Corps for 20 years and has been Corporate Business Community liaison, said he is happy ETR is back.

The Iroquois Job Corps Center had a pre-Covid capacity of 275, but with Covid restrictions, the student population won’t be anywhere near that, Draper said.

All dormitories will be switched to accommodate one or two students, and will be thoroughly sanitized according to CDC guidelines. Additionally, the USDOL has invested significant resources in the Covid-specific retrofitting of all physical areas on centers across the nation, including dorms, cafeterias, offices, classrooms and all other areas on the campus.

Students will not be allowed to travel back and forth to their home and no weekend passes will be issued. Fox said, following Dec. 1, if any local public health officials would like to contact the Center and review the Covid protocols in place, that transparency and support would be welcomed and important.

Fox said the center will be interested in expanding relationships with schools, colleges and other organizations in the community.

“We are pleased to be back and look forward to working with all the partners in the area,” Fox said.

Iroquois Job Center will continue to provide Health Occupations Career Technical Training programs for employment of students in the areas of clinical medical assistant and certified nurse assistant. They will also provide four pre-apprenticeship CTT program with union partners in the skilled area of electrician, bricklaying, carpentry and painting.

Fox added the Iroquois Center is always interested in hearing from local residents and professionals who are interested in serving on the Center’s Community Relations Council and Workforce Council. Also, recognizing there are many other workforce development providers in Western New York, Iroquois Job Corps Center is always interested in how they can adjust the Center’s CTT programs to better meet the needs of the employers in the region.

Legislature chairwoman Lynne Johnson welcomed Fox and ETR back.

“You are a huge contributor to our county and we are proud to have you back on site,” Johnson said.