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Labor official blamed for Job Corps problems quits

Tuesday - 5/7/2013, 6:28pm  ET

SAM HANANEL
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top Labor Department official who took the blame for budgeting mistakes and cost overruns at the federal Job Corps program has resigned.

Jane Oates said in an email to employees on Monday that she is leaving her position as assistant secretary of the agency's Employment and Training Administration at the end of the month. The email, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, cites her accomplishments as assistant secretary and does not mention problems at Job Corps.

Earlier this year, Labor officials suspended new admissions to the program for three months after it experienced two consecutive years of budget shortfalls totaling more than $90 million.

The freeze prevented more than 10,000 disadvantaged and at-risk youth from getting job training at 125 Job Corps centers around the country. The program, which began in the 1960s, offers free education and vocational job training for about 60,000 students between the ages of 16 to 24 each year.

While the freeze was lifted on April 22, budget constraints mean the program will admit about 20 percent fewer youths in the future.

Angry lawmakers grilled Oates at a hearing in March and called for the department's inspector general to investigate how the program ended up with deficits for two years running.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, whose home state has two Job Corps centers, said Tuesday that Oates' resignation "will help this program move forward." Collins has met with Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez and asked him to fire or suspend those deemed responsible for the program's problems once he is confirmed.

"It is unacceptable that these shortfalls resulted in furloughs and layoffs of staff, as well as a freeze on student enrollment, both of which have severely jeopardized the continued stability of Job Corps," Collins said.

Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio declined to comment.

Nominated by President Barack Obama, Oates has been at the Labor Department since 2009.

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