St. Rose trade school expands to accommodate industry job boom

Says Gulf South region will need more than 10,000 industrial workers in upcoming years

A local trade school is expanding their St. Rose campus to accommodate a boom in students looking to fill thousands of positions currently open in skilled construction trades.

The Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC) currently has space for 300 students a semester on their six-acre campus, but a 18,000-square-foot expansion is currently underway that will double the school’s capacity. The expansion began in mid-March and should be open for students in January.

The decision to expand the facility was largely due to the St. Rose campus being at full capacity.

“Over the past four semesters we have had to turn people away,” Angela Latino-Geier,   CEO of the New Orleans/Bayou Chapter of ABC, said. “Now we will be able to double the capacity in classroom laboratory and welding training.”

The ABC campus offers courses on a semester basis for skilled crafts including electrical, instrumentation, pipe fitting, plumbing and welding.

Latino-Geier said the training programs ABC offers appeal to those looking for a step up in their career.

“We have people walking in that have been working at a Burger King or not working at all and they make the decision that they want to learn a craft,” she said. “There is definitely a need because there is a shortage of skilled laborers in the Gulf South.”

The facility, which first opened in 1970, has been providing job training to students for decades, but due to a large part of the skilled labor workforce nearing retirement age, Latino-Geier estimates that the campus will have a large increase in students.

“They are expecting a shortfall between folks retiring and just attrition,” she said. “Currently in the Gulf South you are looking at a shortage of 10,000 to 12,000 workers.”

Latino-Geier said although there are numerous job openings in the skilled trades ABC trains their students in, it takes time for someone to receive the required training to make it in the workforce.

“There are jobs, but again it is quality standard and skill. Not just anybody can get the job, they need the training and we are just trying to offer that training,” she said. “I can tell you that if they are quality students and performing at the level we require, it is more than likely they would have a job offer within a year of starting training.”

ABC has also experienced an increase in participation from high school students who take evening courses at the training facility.

“Our high school participation is growing every year and it is great,” Latino-Geier said. “We are happy that young folks are deciding on what they want to do. A lot of high schoolers are starting here two nights a week and getting at least to the first level where they can get a career.”

Latino-Geier added that every high schooler who takes courses at ABC is sponsored by an employer who pays all of the tuition fees.

Recent Hahnville graduate Nathan Sutton took ABC courses while in high school and is only one semester away from finishing his final welding coursework. He has already received six job offers that pay around $30 an hour.

“Some (of the job offers have been) with contractors in the chemical plants and the plants themselves,” Sutton said. “I knew there were going to be job opportunities, but I didn’t think they would come like they did.”

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