U.S. Labor Secretary Perez visits Memphis, hails Jobs Core Center

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spent much of the morning Wednesday at the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center in Memphis, reports the Commercial Appeal. He was there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a job-training program for youth, patterned loosely after the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

“I believe in second chances,” Perez, a former Department of Justice lawyer, told dozens of students and dignitaries at the center. “If we don’t give people a second chance, we’re not being very American.”

…in the carpentry lab at the center, Perez took a beating in a nail-pounding contest with student Ashley Anderson, 21.

“Ashley kicked my butt,” Perez said. “I need to tell you, I do home improvement projects on the side, not that well, but I do them. Ashley beat me, but she had a smile on her face throughout.”

The Hooks center is the fifth-highest performer among 125 Job Corps centers, a ranking based on metrics that include retention, graduation and placement rates.