New chief takes reins at job-training program

VERGENNES — The latest Northlands Job Corps center director is a high-ranking, 18-year U.S. Coast Guard veteran who crossed the country seven times during his service years before making another trip across the continent from Oregon to take over the Vergennes job training center.
George Sabol, a Pennsylvania native and U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate, also had 11 years of experience helping run several Job Corps centers before spending the past eight years as the executive director of an Astoria, Ore., community action agency.
Sabol’s years in the Coast Guard included posts in Virginia and Boston on the East Coast as well as Oregon and Washington on the West Coast. He retired from that service as a lieutenant commander with the title of Deputy Branch Chief for Law Enforcement for the Pacific Northwest in Seattle.
His 11 years in the Job Corps that immediately followed included positions as a center security manager, social development director and career transition specialist, which he called his favorite of the posts he held because he helped graduates of the federal job training program for economically disadvantaged young people find work.
Sabol said he was familiar with a nearby Job Corps in Seattle from his Coast Guard days, and successfully applied there right after he retired from the Coast Guard — and took to the work right away.
“Once you start working for the Job Corps, you usually either love it or hate it,” Sabol said. “Job Corps is a wonderful thing. It’s just at times it’s difficult with some students.”
He worked in several centers, all 125 of which, like Northlands, are run by private operators who contract with the U.S. Department of Labor. He eventually landed in Oneonta, N.Y., as a deputy director with the expectation of being trained to take over as director within a year or two.
But the center director training him had to leave abruptly sooner than expected, and the center operator and the DOL wanted a more experienced hand in charge. Rather than wait longer, Sabol instead left Job Corps and took over the nonprofit back in Astoria, a post he then held for eight years until he came to Northlands in late January.
Now, Sabol said, he is happy to be back on the Job Corps career track and ready to make the same level of commitment to Northlands operator CHP International that he made in Astoria.
“That’s what I told the agency that I worked with before. They had eight directors in six years before I got there. And I said I’ll give you eight years, and that’s what I did. I brought stability there, and I want to do the same thing here,” Sabol said.
Sabol believes CHP — a company that has worked with other center operators to help recruit students and find them work when they complete the program, among other functions — brings the same level of commitment to what is their initial venture into operating a Job Corps center. CHP took over Northlands in December 2013 after a controversial tenure by Alutiiq LLC marked by behavioral issues among students and some strained relations with its host city.
“I’m sure the company wants that (stability) also,” Sabol said. “CHP is in it for the long haul. This is their first center, and they don’t want it to be their last center.”
CHP’s center operations director Lauren Morales, who served as Northlands center director while CHP searched for a replacement for former director Tony Staynings after his September departure, said CHP took its time to find the right person to take over.
That person, she said, is Sabol.
“From the company standpoint, we did not hire the first person who applied for the job,” Morales said. “We really did conduct a nationwide search and took our time,” Morales said.
Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton said he has had a favorable first impression of the new center director, and appreciates Sabol’s plan to increase Northlands’ presence in Vergennes and emphasize community service.
“He’s very community-minded I think. He wants to get those kids more involved,” Benton said.
Coming to Northlands fulfilled Sabol’s Job Corps career goals, but he said his primary ambition during his 11 total years in the job-training program has been simpler — he wants those in the program to succeed.
  “I work for Job Corps to help students get jobs, and that’s the bottom line,” Sabol said. “That’s the reason I love Job Corps.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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