Partnership expands opportunities for technical training in St. John

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2009


Staff Reporter

RESERVE — A partnership between a contracting firm, a construction workforce management organization and the Louisiana Technical College is helping instill workers at Marathon Oil with a valuable skill that is in high demand in the industrial field.

Chris Weber, welding instructor at LTC’s River Parishes campus in Reserve, is in the middle of a 16-week course designed to teach a younger generation of industrial employees a specialized skill that could eventually earn them a tremendous amount of money in the long run.

“We are giving helpers at Marathon the opportunity to learn structural welding, pipe welding and MIG welding at a location that is close to where they live and work,” said Weber. “These are guys from the River Parishes getting a chance to further their development within the industrial workforce.”

The course is part of an education initiative between Marathon and Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., a national management association for the construction industry. Angela Latino-Geier, president of the organization’s “bayou chapter,” located in St. Rose, said the partnership with LTC lets the employees receive training without having to travel to ABC’s St. Rose or Baton Rouge locations.

“Most of the contractors would rather the workers stay within the parish because it keeps the retention rate up,” said Latino-Geier. “The contractors are very involved in the classes and are adamant about attendance and grade records since they are paying for the education their workers receive.”

Weber said welders are in especially high demand in today’s workforce because many skilled craftsmen are reaching the age where it is time to retire. Most of the students Weber sees in his classes are between the ages of 19 and 25. About 65 percent of them are from St. John Parish.

“I’m trying to train them for the next generation,” said Weber. “I get them to the marketplace quicker, and they will always have a job.”

Joel Thames of Performance Contractors, the industrial building firm responsible for Marathon’s expansion, said workforce development is critical to pushing a large

“The skills being taught at LTC are of huge need to us and any industrial construction project. Plus, the agreement deals with local guys and it keeps us from having to pull employees from outside the state,” said Thames.

Thames said Weber’s classes at LTC have trained well over 80 welders, which far surpasses the output of ABC’s St. Rose or Baton Rouge campus. He said that number is a direct result of the location and convenience of LTC’s Reserve campus, which also helps keep the students in the area.

“If they are earning their money in St. John Parish, they are more likely to spend their money in St. John Parish,” said Thames.

Weber’s classes are also experiencing exceptional results. He explained that 12 of the 15 helpers in his last class became structural welders and five of those 12 are ready to learn pipe welding.

“I’d like to see better results,” said Weber. “Our goal is 90 percent completion, we stand at about 80.”

Thames said the 80 percent that Weber is experiencing is still far better than other campuses, which only see about a 50 to 60 percent completion.

“He is certainly getting results,” Thames said of Weber. “He is a tough teacher but a good teacher.”