Almost as soon as Larry Galloway retired from ExxonMobil, he went back to work. The local high school grad from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, now spends his free time teaching and volunteering for the North Baton Rouge Industrial Training Initiative (NBRITI), where he’s making a difference in people’s lives, many of whom remind him of his younger self.

Crystal Crawford, welding student at NBRITI.

Crystal Crawford, welding student at NBRITI.

One of those people is Crystal Crawford, a Louisiana native and student in the industrial crafts training program. Crawford never imagined becoming a welder, but when she learned about the job opportunities that come with having a skilled trade, she decided to give it a try.

“I can always move up and excel. If you give me a job to do, I’m going to do my job. A lot of contractors are hiring right now, and welders are one of the main jobs they need,” Crawford says.

NBRITI was created in 2012 by ExxonMobil with support from its contracting partners and Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC). The program educates students in petrochemical and refining industry trades. Through the program, participants have earned nationally recognized construction credentials that prepare them to enter the workforce upon graduation.

The manufacturing renaissance going on in and around Louisiana is creating thousands of new jobs. Because of the tight labor market, Crawford and her classmates will soon know how it feels to be professionals with marketable, in-demand technical skills.

Students in the electrical course at NBRITI demonstrate safety best practices.

Students in the electrical course at NBRITI demonstrate safety best practices.

“These are people who have the potential, they have the work ethic, they have the aptitude, they just need the opportunity,” says Galloway, who is especially well-suited to mentor NBRITI students. “I came from a similar upbringing as they did, and if I went from that situation to where I am now,” he says, “I truly believe that they can do the same.”

NBRITI targets adults in the North Baton Rouge area who may be currently employed or underemployed and want an opportunity to upgrade their career potential. Funding from partners like ExxonMobil and the Jacobs Foundation, along with state and federal grants, helps offset the costs. This allows BRCC to offer the training at no cost to students. In addition to classes in the skilled trades, the program teaches social and life skills, and an adult educator/life coach is on hand for students seeking additional assistance.

Another important element of NBRITI’s success is its partnership with Baton Rouge nonprofit Hope Ministries’ Way to Work program. Way to Work specifically targets issues related to learned behaviors and generational poverty to enable employers and employees to communicate better, so that once NBRITI students get jobs, they have the skills to keep them.

“The people that we train advance to higher-level positions in their jobs, meaning others can move into their roles,” explains Girard Melancon, executive director for workforce education at BRCC. “It’s just another way we’re creating new opportunities in the community for others.”

Above header image: Crystal Crawford in welding class.


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