As ExxonMobil prepares to spend some $20 billion in expansion projects along the Gulf Coast over the next decade, the petrochemical giant could hire some of the needed electricians, welders and pipefitters from the North Baton Rouge Industrial Training Initiative.
“We’ve always been thinking, how do we best provide opportunity to the community we operate in?” Gloria Moncada, manager of ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery, said at a stakeholder breakfast this morning. “This is the pinnacle way we can do that.”
Funded by Baton Rouge Community College and supported by ExxonMobil and various contractor partners, the initiative began in 2012, borne out of a need to provide sustainable employment opportunities for residents and also help fulfill personnel needs for the industrial sector.
Girard Melancon, BRCC executive director of workforce education, says industry partnerships and buy-in from the business community are critical components to the program’s continuation.
“It’s the growth of a workforce program—not a social program—where companies are willing to reward those who do the work, rather than give handouts in a feel-good effort,” he said.
For example, an unskilled worker could go from making minimum wage at a temporary job to starting a full-time job at $11 to $12 an hour—and earn upwards of $17 an hour after training, he said.
One success story is Derek Jones, who went through the program in 2012 after “waiting too long” for plumbing school. He’d heard about it through a family friend who was a program instructor and thought it sounded like a good opportunity.
After graduating in 2013, he was hired by ISC Constructors. Eight months ago, he was promoted to foreman. Now he works more than 12-hour days—two weeks on, two weeks off—and said he’s walking door to door, encouraging young black men in the area to do the same.
“A trade is something no one can take away from you,” Jones said. “I’m going to continue this journey and see where it leads me.”
Since its launch, the program has graduated 135 people in the electrical, welding and pipefitting fields. Of the 45 graduates from last year, there were 16 welders, 15 electricians and 14 pipefitters. There are 49 candidates in the 2018 cohort slated to graduate in December.