46 employees to lose jobs at Kicking Horse Job Corps
By Karen Peterson
RONAN – The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes informed the employees at Kicking Horse Job Corps that the center will be completely closed as of Feb. 28.
CSKT Communications Director Rob McDonald said the tribe was working with the Department of Labor to develop an annual contract before the announcement. “The Department of Labor simply did not renew a new contract that was to start March 1,” he said.
He said the tribe has posed “a lot of questions” concerning the incident to the Department of Labor and doesn’t have answers at this time. “All we know for certain is that our ability to operate Kicking Horse Job Corps through a Department of Labor contract terminated with our existing contract term,” he said. “CSKT was not given an offer for an extension.”
In preparation for the new contract, Kicking Horse Job Corps officials were asked to address a number of operations issues starting back in October of 2018. “Not all of those issues were addressed on time, and the center was not cleared to start accepting students,” he said. McDonald explained that students haven’t been allowed to attend Kicking Horse since August of 2018 due to the hold the Department of Labor put on the center in regards to those operating issues.
The CSKT Tribal Council met with 46 Kicking Horse staff members during the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 6, to tell them that the center will be closing. McDonald said CSKT is still in contact with the Department of Labor officials, but he didn’t know if or when the center would be opened again.
According to the CSKT annual report, Kicking Horse is a training center for young adults ages 16 to 24. “Through a contract with the Department of Labor, the center has served as an all-Indian vocational training center since 1970 that served up to 400 students annually. When admissions dipped in 2007, the center opened to non-Natives to keep student numbers higher, which brought in a more diverse population that better reflects the global workplace.”
Kicking Horse has operated through a contract with the National Job Corps Program under the United States Department of Labor. The contract allowed Kicking Horse to train 177 disadvantaged young adults with skills for long-term employment in areas that included heavy equipment operations, equipment repair, facility maintenance, culinary arts, certified nursing assistance and pharmacy technicians.