Over the past several months, River Parishes Community College has helped dozens of individuals begin new careers thanks to a hands-on training program and partnerships with local businesses.
The Basic Access Industrial Scaffolding class teaches students the foundations of scaffolding work and prepares them to move immediately into on-site work. A two-week/80-hour course is offered each month at the RPCC campus in Gonzales. Tuition for the full course is $1,500.
During the course, students learn about the four types of scaffold components used by leading companies. Other topics include fall protection, personal responsibility, customer service, physical fitness, teamwork, tool use and numerous activities related to erecting and dismantling scaffolding.
The class is part of the Reboot Your Career program from Louisiana’s Community and Technical Colleges, which was created to help train people in new careers if they lost work because of COVID-19.
The program includes reduced tuition, no application fees and short-term training. Federal CARES funding is being used to help pay for the initiative, which is scheduled to run through spring 2021.
“What makes this class different is that the students have obtained employment immediately,” said Cynthia Lockett, the instructor of the class at RPCC. “Most of our students have been employed within a week or two after completing the class.”
The class runs for two weeks and includes some night sessions for people who are already employed but are looking to make a career change.
Lockett said most students who complete the class begin their new careers as a helper. Many are able to advance to higher-level positions within six months, or sometimes less. With additional experience and training, many students are in a position to move on to even more lucrative careers in carpentry, welding, pipefitting and more.
One of the key components of the class is safety, Lockett said.
“We talk about safety the whole time, but the first couple of days is almost exclusively focused on that,” she said. “We want to make sure they are comfortable wearing a harness and handling the tools. We want to make sure they are comfortable with the conditions. They are going to be dealing with both hot weather and cold weather, so we make sure to prepare them for all of that.”
That type of hands-on preparation is combined with RPCC’s strong relationships with multiple companies, meaning that students who complete the course have a major advantage in finding employment.
“We strive to find career opportunities for RPCC scaffolding graduates,” said Robert Bel, senior manager, craft development at BrandSafway, one of RPCC’s community partners.
“We also recommend to entry-level candidates looking for opportunities at BrandSafway to consider completing the scaffolding course at RPCC, as it provides a solid foundation of the knowledge, skills and abilities required to kickstart their careers in the scaffolding trade,” Bel added.
Lockett said it isn’t unusual for RPCC students to discover other interests and talents once they finish the program and move into the field. She noted that many companies are willing to cross-train employees and help them move up the ranks if they demonstrate the right skills and ambition.
Some of Lockett’s students have been unemployed and are looking to enter the job market. Others have jobs, but want a different career that offers more pay, advancement opportunities or is a better match for their interests.
“This class is the greatest opportunity because it gives the students the foundation to get into the plant and see what else they like,” she said. “The students that are particularly successful are the ones who catch on quickly. They have a desire to learn. They don’t miss any time. They ask all the questions and they are very active participants in class. I always let them know that it’s hard work. But it’s worth it because the pay is great and it is an awesome way to provide for your family.”
For more information on the Basic Access Industrial Scaffolding course or other offerings, visit https://www.lctcs.edu/rebootyourcareer.