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Southern University at Shreveport's EPA program is pipeline to jobs

Kate Archer Kent

More than a dozen people in Shreveport have started a job training program this week made possible through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It could lead to a full-time job next month. Southern University at Shreveport is administering the grant that provides environmental health and safety training certifications. Program director Dennis Holmes said it's life-changing, and is catered to people who need a second chance in their career track. He said local firms seek out these graduates who get certifications in hazardous materials handling, OSHA construction safety, and EPA asbestos abatement.

“Some of them just hadn’t completed anything that was really productive for them," Holmes said, outside a classroom at the Shreveport Fire and Police Training Academy where part of the program is delivered. "This is very productive. They can start to take care of their kids and families. A lot of them said that they want to able to make their children and family have a good Christmas this year.”

Njeri Camara of Shreveport is self-employed, but hasn’t been able to make ends meet. She started the 125-hour program in hopes it will lead to a job in the construction trade.

“If you include my other education and training, I think it will make me more attractive perhaps than someone who’s just got the specific training to do the actual manual labor part, but I know I’m going to have to go in and do the manual labor," Camara said.

Holmes said in the last class, 18 out of 20 students received job offers prior to the end of the program. There’s a waiting list, but he’s currently seeking applications to fill the EPA training program that begins in the spring.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.