LTC-RP on the cutting edge

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 14, 1998

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / August 14, 1998

RESERVE – Louisiana Technical College – River Parishes Campus is on the cutting edge, not only of job training but of the job market as well. Lastyear, 1,435 students passed through their programs, director Dennis Murphy said.

“It’s really exciting right now,” Murphy exclaimed. “We are getting peopleprepared to go to work.”The reason LTC is on this cutting edge is because of its close cooperation with area industry, providing the skilled and trained employees they need.

Murphy reminds prospective students that current minimum wage is $5.15per hour. With completion of programs offered at LTC, that wage levelcould go as high as $26 per hour.

“We have a waiting list now for our welding classes,” Murphy said, and added even with that, LTC is hard pressed to keep up with the current demand.

“And everybody’s hiring!” Murphy exclaimed.

High on the industry demand list are multi-crafted people in industrial maintenance. With multiple skills, such as welding, pipefitting,instrumentation and electrical, those LTC graduates can write their own ticket in the River Parishes.

“A group from Bayou Steel just left,” he added. “There’s also Marathon,Monsanto, TransAmerican, Union Carbide and Witco.”Other major plants who also work closely with LTC are American Iron Reduction, DuPont Dow Elastomers, River Parishes Hospital, Mazda Motor of America and Nissan Motor Corporation.

LTC makes it standard procedure to partner with area industies to provide exactly the type of training required at local plants, so that graduates can literally finish classes on Friday and go to work on Monday.

Indeed, most plants no longer maintain in-house training programs, preferring to make use of LTC and its resources to train their employees.

Another hot-ticket skill is automotive technologist. “They are screamingfor qualified people,” Murphy noted. With increasing computerization ofvehicles, the old-fashioned “grease-monkey” doesn’t make the grade anymore.

As one might imagine in south Louisiana, people qualified in residential, commercial and industrial air conditioning and refrigeration are also in high demand.

The average daytime enrollment at the school is 212, Murphy noted, with night class enrollment between 230 and 250 students.

Night-time classes include computer technology, nursing assistant, A/C- refrigeration, millwright, welding, process technician and emergency medical technician, among others.

LTC has a low teacher-student ratio, 14-to-1, low tuition at $105 per quarter, one and two-year programs and the school also offers a two-year associate degree program in industrial technology.

Murphy said the school is evaluated two ways: by how many students complete their programs (80 percent) and by how many are placed into jobs (80 percent).

This fall, LTC is coordinating with St. John Parish to establish a one-stopjob service shop. A building housing Job Service, welfare and JTPA officeswill soon be on the LTC campus. “It’s a perfect thing,” Murphy said, forthose people needing to find all these services in one location.

A new $275,000 computer lab will be coming soon, as well as additional instructors to keep up with the demands of local industry.

Also, LTC is coordinating with the St. Charles and St. John school systems,who provide bus service for a total of 38 students to attend classes here, and obtain three credits tuition-free.

High school teachers are also on board, preparing students for the workplace. Recently, 30 high school teachers attended their second annualsummer camp, taking classes and learning about LTC’s resources.

“Students know this is a great place to be to get a job,” Murphy added, and commented what local industry wants to hire is “a self-directed person who can take on responsibility and work together as a team.”High in Murphy’s thoughts is the November election, where a state constitutional amendment will, if approved, establish a new governing board for such institutions, apart from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and hopefully get more state funding for the school.

“A lot of kids think if their parents worked at the plants, they can get a job at the plants,” Murphy pointed out. “Now you need documented training.They have to be job-ready.”