If you don’t know exactly what Maui Job Corps is, don’t feel bad – I didn’t either. That is, until I received an invitation to tour the Maui Job Corps campus off of Baldwin Avenue on Ike Drive, nestled in between Maui’s North Shore and Upcountry. What I discovered during my visit is that Maui Job Corps is dedicated to providing a space to improve the lives of young people. Their programs are completely free of charge, and are available to young adults from 16 to 24 years old. Maui Job Corps is our local satellite center for the national program, which is the largest residential education and job training program in the United States. In addition to high school diplomas and a variety of core studies like literacy, numeracy, and English for language learners, the Maui Job Corps campus offers training in four specific trades: culinary arts, facility maintenance, hospitality, and office administration.
When I visited, Hannah Herron had been the work-based learning coordinator at the Maui Job Corps since 2016, and she facilitated my tour. Herron is full of passion and dedication for the students, vision, mission, and goals of Maui Job Corps. She believes it’s an invaluable training program because it provides an alternative to mainstream education with hands-on, interactive material.
“Students learn not just academics, but also life skills,” says Herron. “Most importantly, they gain confidence in themselves by mastering a trade they are passionate about.”
In the culinary classroom, the students had prepared lunch for me – a pleasant surprise! The classroom proudly presented a sautéed vegetable medley and a freshly caught fish entree that they made in class that day. It was ‘ono!
At the Retail Sales Store, a teacher told me about a young woman who had graduated from the program. With the help of Maui Job Corps, she accomplished a number of goals, including receiving a GED, NRF Certification (customer service and sales), OPAC (business math), GSA (defensive driving), Hawai‘i driver’s license, and a paid internship at Minit Stop. Since her time with Maui Job Corps, she’s continued on to higher education. In the spring of 2018, she received an associate’s degree in liberal arts at UH Hilo, and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UH Manoa in business administration. By the end of the day, the passion projected by the staff is something that really made a huge impression on me.
Job Corps is federally-funded, and the history of the organization goes back decades. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, also known as the Poverty Bill. This is the law which authorized Job Corps to begin registering students into their programs. This no-cost vocational program is now administered by the US Department of Labor.
During my tour, I met site director Marshall Norman, who’s been with the organization for 10 years. Norman told me about how they coordinate high school diploma programs in partnership with McKinley Community School for adults, and for GED and HiSet exams, students receive a Penn Foster online high school diploma.
“At Hawai‘i Job Corps Maui, you will find a top-rated education and a career training program that has positively impacted the lives of thousands of young adults,” says Norman. “These individuals made the decision to actively pursue education and training in order to become independent and self-sufficient. Hawai‘i Job Corps Maui has served Maui County, the State of Hawai‘i, and the Pacific Basin for almost 30 years. Our graduates have become leaders in their work, in their communities, and with their families. Each faculty and staff member is focused on helping students realize their full potential and pursue a meaningful career pathway that will lead to a lifetime of learning.”
Norman gave a historical lesson on the magnificent Maui Job Corps property, also known as the the Maunaolu Campus. In the ancient Hawaiian language, “Maunaolu” means “Mountain of Peace or Place of Serenity.” The original building was constructed in 1900 by Henry P. Baldwin. Founded by missionary D.B. Andrews, it was originally a school and seminary for Hawaiian girls ages 6-16.
“The seminary taught English, domestic arts, and theology,” says Norman. “With the onset of World War II, the seminary was closed and turned over to the US Military and became a hospital. In 1950, the site became the Maunaolu College which closed in 1972. After 1972, Maui County used the site for county programs which included a youth shelter and other related social services. In 1986, the Maunaolu campus became the new home of the Hawai‘i Job Corps Maui Satellite Center. After a two year, $3 million structural renovation of the historic building, the Maui site had its grand opening on March 18, 1989.”
Maui Job Corps has continued the rich history of the area as a center for education and well being for its inhabitants. Currently, Maui Job Corps has open enrollment, and all are invited to come and tour the campus and learn more about their programs.
The last Hawai‘i Department of Education report on high school graduation rates was completed in 2014-2015. Although graduation rates have overall increased, the average “all public high school student” graduation rate is at approximately 81 percent. For “low income students,” the rate is less and sits at 75 percent. For “students with disabilities,” it’s 60 percent. The Job Corps welcomes all students.
Hawai‘i Job Corps also has a campus on O‘ahu, and after completing foundational requirements, students can transfer to a variety of Job Corps campuses across the United States. Career training program options are vast and include manufacturing, automotive and machine repair, construction, finance and business, healthcare, homeland security, hospitality, information technology, renewable resources and energy, transportation, and more. Maui Job Corps offers weekly guided tours of their campus, classrooms and programs. Parents, guardians and students are encouraged to visit, and apply in person or online. Maui Job Corps is located at 500 Ike Drive, Makawao. For more information, visit Maui.jobcorps.gov or call 800-733-JOBS.
Photos by Sean M. Hower