Report from Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn criticizes federal job training in Oklahoma

Coburn's report states duplicative and wasteful federal programs don't help job seekers or employers in Oklahoma despite costing $164 million per year
by Chris Casteel Published: July 24, 2012
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Federal job training programs in Oklahoma are a “convoluted mess” that cost $164 million a year and have little measurement for success, according to a report by Sen. Tom Coburn's office.

One program, called Job Corps, spends up to $76,000 a person to train young people for jobs that often pay minimum wage in Oklahoma, according to the report, which states overlap is common among 40 different programs that are operated by more than 45 entities and spread out across 180 physical locations in Oklahoma.

The system doesn't work for most job-seekers, many of whom don't even know the programs exist, or for employers, the report states.

“The vast majority that we spend on job training is not successful (at) getting someone into a job and a career path where they can stabilize their life, make a living and grow their opportunities,” Coburn said in an interview.

“Most of what we're doing in job training in Oklahoma is employing people in job training.”

Coburn said state officials aren't to blame and that the problem is a patchwork of federal programs created by Congress for which there is no oversight.

The senator commended the state's CareerTech system, and his report praises the state Rehabilitation Services Department for a program helping people with disabilities find work. He said state governments could do a better job designing and monitoring their own job programs.

A spokesman for the Department of Labor said: “The Department of Labor publishes a wide variety of performance statistics for the federal job training programs we administer through our state and local partners. For years we have made Workforce Investment Act quarterly performance data available online, and we recently created a new Job Corps page providing unprecedented transparency into the performance of every local Job Corps center. While we have not seen the full report, we look forward to working with Senator Coburn, the state of Oklahoma, and our other partners to ensure that federal job training funds are being used as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Oklahoma not unique

Coburn's report, to be released Tuesday, was researched for a year by members of Coburn's staff and included visits to job training centers across the state and interviews with state agencies and training program participants.

Coburn said he had no reason to believe the situation in Oklahoma was unique. In fact, he decided to do a case study in Oklahoma after the release of federal reports about the duplication among job training programs nationwide and the lack of measurements for success.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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