Chemeketa’s free career training programs seek students

Truck driving students inspect a trailer before a hands-on lesson at Chemeketa Community College. The program is one of several eligible for free tuition under the college’s Job Corps Scholars program (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

A local program aimed at helping to make career-focused college courses attainable is running out of time. 

At the start of 2020, Chemeketa Community College was one of 26 colleges selected to receive U.S. Department of Labor funds to distribute as scholarships. The money would pay for tuition, books and other costs for students who enrolled in career-focused programs such as automotive technology or medical assisting. 

Dubbed the Job Corps Scholars Program, the first class to get a free ride stepped into classrooms in 2020 but come 2023, the grant money dries up.

“We are trying to reach out to see if we can get the word out there to an audience that there is a scholarship opportunity,” said Deroll Barrett, coordinator for the program. 

There are only four requirements for students to be eligible to receive free tuition: they must be in the U.S. legally, enroll in a qualifying program, meet the federal definition of low income and be between the ages of 16 and 24. 

However, there is wiggle room. 

“If they have a documented disability we can waive the upper age limit,” Barrett said. “And they can provide documentation for meeting the low income requirement. If they qualified for free or reduced lunch in high school or received government assistance, that counts.”

Felipe Camacho enrolled in the automotive technology program at Chemeketa in 2020 and is expected to graduate this summer thanks, in part, to the Job Corps Scholars Program. When Camacho finishes his classes, he hopes to get started in a local mechanic shop and work towards opening his own in the near future. 

“I probably wouldn’t have taken classes without their help,” the Salem native said. 

Camacho is one of the 45 students currently in the program who all started at various times but the last of which are expected to graduate in 2023, when the funding runs out. Students who enroll for this fall and coming January, will also complete their coursework by or before September 2023–a requirement for the program. 

Eligible areas of study currently offered at Chemeketa that can be completed by the September 2023 deadline include accounting, building inspection, automotive tech, computer information systems, criminal justice, early childhood education, fire emergency services, health services, management and welding. The program also includes a success coach to help students navigate their classes. 

“I would say that if you are dedicated and committed to your studies, you should join Job Corps,” Camacho said. “Go to the website, fill out the form, go to the orientation and make sure to be on top of your classes. Tuition isn’t cheap.” 

“That’s what the program does,” Barrett said. “It removes barriers.”

For more information, or to apply to Job Corps, visit the website here.

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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