Following the passage of the Federal Economic Opportunity Act into law on August 20, 1964, the United States Office of Economic Opportunity began awarding contracts to establish vocational-training centers. By the mid-1960s Texas had established one of each of the three types of centers: an urban center for men, an urban center for women, and a rural center for men. In 1969 the responsibility for establishing vocational-training centers was moved from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the United States Department of Labor. On December 16, 1964, the Texas Educational Foundation, Incorporated, a private, nonprofit, Texas corporation, was awarded a contract to establish the Gary Job Corps Training Center at San Marcos. In June 1966 this foundation was awarded a second contract to establish the McKinney Center for Women. In addition to these two urban centers, the New Waverly Conservation Center, funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity and operated by the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, was completed in August 1965. With the cut-back of funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity, the New Waverly Conservation Center, which had provided facilities for a maximum of 225 young men to receive rural vocational training, was closed in June 1969. Both the Gary and McKinney centers were still in operation in 2004.
The Gary Job Corps Training Center is located four miles southeast of San Marcos on the former site of Gary Air Force Base. The first trainees arrived in March 1965, and on April 10, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the training center. Between 1965 and 1967 it became the largest such training center in the nation, having approximately 3,000 trainees in 1967. In 1994 the center offered twenty-six vocational choices to young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. Its enrollment in 1994 was 2,200. The McKinney Center for Women, established in June 1966, was located in the facilities formerly used by the Veterans Administration Hospital, McKinney. With space for 600 young women, the center offered vocational training in industrial fields. In the 1990s, the center was coeducational and had facilities for 650 students. In 1970 the Department of Labor entered into a contract with the Texas Educational Foundation, Incorporated, for the establishment and operation of a training center at El Paso. The El Paso Residential Manpower Center was opened in September 1970 with fifty students at the old Hotel Cortez in downtown El Paso. In 1994 it had 415 trainees, 325 resident and ninety nonresident. Its name was changed in 1991 to David Carrasco Center in honor of its first director. Another center, the Laredo Job Corps Center, provided nonresidential services to 175 students.
Trainees in all four centers receive sufficient technical knowledge and supervised practice to permit them to obtain gainful employment in a defined occupation upon completion of training. General-education courses are offered in basic and remedial reading, writing, mathematics, and communications. Trainees who so desired can take the General Educational Development to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma. Although the program provides a maximum of two years' training, the average trainee spends approximately seven months at a Job Corps facility. In 1989 the average Job Corps trainee was eighteen years old and had a seventh-grade reading level upon entering the program. Eighty-four percent of the students were high school dropouts; 75 percent had never held a full-time job. All of the participants came from families earning incomes below the poverty level. Nationwide, 70 percent of Job Corps enrollment consisted of minorities, including African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, and Asian Americans. During 1989 a total of 101,253 young people sought services at the 106 centers located around the country. In 2004 the national organization reported that some 118 job corps centers served an estimated 70,000 students a year. The four Texas facilities had a combined capacity of 3,140 trainees.