It took David Stammer of Independence two tries, but he says he’s gotten his life straightened out with help from the Job Corps.

Stammer, 26, has a good job working for a utility construction company and is thinking about pursuing a college degree thanks to the free federal job training and education program for youths from 16 to 24 who meet low-income guidelines.

“The [Job Corps] works for people like me, but you have to put your mind to it,” says Stammer. 

He spent about a year in the residential training program at the Job Corps’ Muhlenberg Center in Greenville, Ky., one of seven Job Corp training sites in the commonwealth.

A decade earlier after dropping out of Withrow High School in Cincinnati, Stammer got into trouble and was sent to a Job Corps training center in Cleveland, but after a few months he left the program and went to work in Kentucky.

He says he didn’t go into the program the first time with the right attitude. But after he and his fiancé had a couple kids he decided he needed to buckle down and re-enrolled.

“I was more than ready to do it. I was positive about it and stayed focused on doing the school work,” he says.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Job Corps, which marked its 50th anniversary in 2014, is the largest career technical and education program for young people. Launched in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson as part of his War on Poverty, the program annually trains some 60,000 young people at its 125 training centers scattered across the country. 

Amber Haag, Job Corps outreach and marketing coordinator, says the program sets up students for success by offering math and reading tutors, high school equivalency and high school diploma programs as well as training in more than 100 different programs ranging from culinary arts to welding. In addition, some centers offer students the opportunity to take college classes.

The self-paced program for up to two years includes not just formal education but life-skills preparation with programs in driver education, and programs in social and independent living skills.

The program covers all the education, room and board. It’s the equivalent of a $35,000 annual scholarship, Haag says. The students are also paid a stipend starting at $25 every two weeks and some can supplement that by working off-campus.

Camilla Phillips, outreach and admissions coordinator for the Job Corps office in Florence, says the program isn’t just for recent high school students. It’s also open to those under 25 who’ve found themselves in a dead-end job and looking for a career.

Job Corps counselors provide extensive support to students. For potential employers, she says, students who leave the program “are pretty job ready.’’ The program helps students with resumes and job placement.

“It’s an excellent environment,” says Stammer. Students spent six to seven hours a day in class, but had plenty of free time for recreation and other activities such as field trips for movies and sporting events, he says.

The Job Corps has a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol use. And students who commit violent acts are expelled.