Hurricane Evacuees Learn Skills to Rebuild Infrastructure

A number of hurricane evacuees are learning the skills needed to go back to their home cities and rebuild the infrastructure. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, Houston Community College is training nearly 200 people in construction and technical jobs.

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Last fall, Houston Community College won a grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council to provide job skills training for hurricane evacuees. The grant was augmented this year, providing a total of $272,000 to provide courses free of charge to those enrolled. Sterling Foote is the director of the Institute for Excellence at HCC. He says they hope to graduate 165 evacuees from the construction skills training.

"We applied for the grant application and we got the grant. And our grant is designed to recruit and train in occupational trades, and ours in particular is construction trades training."

The participants go through anywhere from eight to 12 weeks of training. Most of the classes are held in the evenings to accomodate people with full-time jobs. They're taught to be carpenters, welders, plumbers, electrical assistants and pretty much any other specialization in construction labor.

"New Orleans was in great need of these particular occupational tradesmen and the evacuees who were here who wanted to return home would probably serve their community a lot better if they were able to contribute to the rebuilding process."

The program has already graduated 47 students and there are about 35 currently enrolled. There's still funding for as many as 80 more participants, so Foote is looking for evacuees who would be interested in learning the skills and taking them home to places like New Orleans and Mississippi.

"Most of them are pretty pleased with the opportunity. Apparently, there was a lack of opportunity in their region for folks to get meaningful training, particularly in these trades. And this has given them opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise have."

HCC also received two other grants to provide job coaching and placement to unemployed evacuees in other fields. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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