Perkins Center sets eyes on first, after once being ranked among worst

Ralph B. Davis rdavis@civitasmedia.com

February 21, 2014

PRESTONSBURG — Carl D. Perkins Job Corps Center Director Thomas Rainey can’t help but beam when he talks about the progress made by the center during his five years at the helm.

He points to improvements throughout the campus, whether its the new basketball gym, complete with a new floor, scoreboard and bleachers, the independent-living dormitory, or student-led initiatives, such as the new e-library, gameroom and incentive store.

He also points to improvements in the center’s rankings. After having fallen to a ranking of 104th out of 125 job corps centers nationwide, Perkins now sits at ninth in the nation, only a small step down from its recent all-time high of fourth.

Finally, he also points to improvements in the students themselves, who are staying longer, learning more and earning ever higher achievements. Rather than leaving as soon as they get a GED or high school diploma, many are now choosing to stay to take advantage of the opportunity to get industry certifications or even college degrees.

All of that success has helped the center reach another milestone — Perkins students are ranked first in the nation for job placement after they leave the center.

Rainey says the center’s rise to its current elite status among the nation’s job corps centers is largely due to his staff’s commitment to putting the students first and treating them like the young adults they are by creating a “college-like atmosphere.”

“If you make the students feel better, they do better,” Rainey said Thursday, during the center’s Community Relations Council meeting. “And if they do better, the center does better.”

But he also gives credit to the students themselves.

“We have the best students, anywhere,” Rainey said.

And continued success for Perkins has rewards for the community, too. A report given to those attending Thursday’s meeting revealed that the center provides jobs for 105 people and spurs over $15 million in economic activity in the community. Perkins students also provide 500 hours of volunteer work on service projects each year.

Looking ahead, Rainey does not want to give too much away. However, he did say the center is seeking approval to expand its technical training into new areas, as well as to create new partnerships with local schools and colleges.