Program offers training to residents of rough neighborhood
Anthony “DJ Amp” Parker lives in the 70805 ZIP code, one of the roughest neighborhoods in Baton Rouge.
The 27-year-old, who makes money playing music at different events, describes himself as serious about his business and always looking to have multiple streams of income.
So, on Wednesday, Parker was at the Capital Area Technical College campus to sign up for the North Baton Rouge Industrial Training Initiative, hoping to be selected for a free education in welding.
The training initiative was born out of a partnership among the Capital Area Technical College, Baton Rouge Community College and area companies including Exxon Mobil and Turner Industries.
CATC Chief Development Officer Tammy Brown said the initiative calls for 60 people to be selected out of about 150 people who have applied so far to earn free classes in welding, pipe fitting and electrical work.
Those students will earn national certification through the program and assistance finding a job with one of the participating sponsors.
“The people here in the 70805 ZIP code are our neighbors. We want them to know about the incredible opportunities available to them right here in their neighborhood,” Brown said.
As Parker browsed the different booths set up for the “70805 Education for Careers Fair,” where the training initiative was announced, he said he was focused on the welding classes.
“I deejay a lot but I want to do welding too. This way, I can accomplish two things I’ve always wanted to do,” Parker said.
Parker lives in an area rough enough that the Police Department has singled it out for an intervention.
Police launched the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination, or BRAVE anti-violence unit, in early June to encourage improved relationships between officers and community members.
The area — bordered by Airline Highway to the north and the east, Choctaw Drive to the south and the Mississippi River to the west — accounts for 13 percent of the city’s population but 30 percent of its homicides.
Parker acknowledges that his neighborhood is rough.
“It’s real rough, but then again pretty much everywhere you go in Baton Rouge is rough right now. I’m glad the colleges are reaching out to this neighborhood. The more jobs there are will keep people from doing bad things,” Parker said. “You see the violence, the robbing and stealing when people don’t have anything to do.”
Connie Fabre, executive director for the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance talked up the importance of the initiative by pointing out that industry supplies 40 percent of all the jobs in the Baton Rouge area.
Someone who can learn skills in as few as three months through the training initiative’s accelerated courses will have the inside track on earning upwards of $30,000 per year at a number of different plants in and around the area, Fabre said.
Paul Stratford, Baton Rouge chemical plant manager said that lots of industry emloyees, at Exxon in particular, will be retiring in the next few years, leaving a significant void that graduates of the current training initiative and subsequent classes can one day fill.
HOPE Ministries will offer financial health counseling, advice on juggling family life with work and other services to fill out the role of faith-based communities and nonprofits as part of the initiative, Executive Director Janet Simmons said.
Baton Rouge Community College Chancellor Andrea Miller added that “it’s always good when businesses are able to connect their needs with the training of the people living in close physical proximity.
One of those people was Janet Henyard, 43, who was browsing different unions membership, financial aid options and career counseling options during the Education for Careers Fair with her daughter Cynthia, 23.
“With more fairs like this, it wouldn’t be the worst neighborhood in the city,” Janet Henyard said.