BayouLife Magazine April 2022

Page 40

LDCC is Building Relationships EPC Shares Mutual Interests in Advancing the Local Economies of Northeast Lousiana BY DARIAN ATKINS


PA R T N E R S H I P I S A N A R R A N G E M E N T W H E R E parties, known as business partners, agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. Such is Louisiana Delta Community College’s journey with West Monroe business Etheridge Pipeline & Conduit (EPC). Both parties have a mutual interest in advancing the economies of Northeast Louisiana and equipping its citizens with skills to go to work locally. EPC is co-owned by brothers Caleb and Josh Etheridge. Born and raised in Grayson, Louisiana, they have an affinity for this area. “One of the things we’re passionate about is hiring local,” says Caleb. “We want to help build our local economy, so we approached Louisiana Delta Community College about developing a trenchless utility training program.” EPC has had difficulty finding locals with the required skills, so they figured they’d build them out of citizens who were hungry for a new career. EPC employees work in crews. “LDCC would train students to work every crew function within 6-8 weeks,” explains John Garrison, director of advanced manufacturing training at LDCC. LDCC is the only training provider that teaches all crew functions to a single class, and new classes would begin once the previous students have completed the course. EPC & LDCC are looking forward to providing more opportunities for the trenchless utility training program and three new upcoming training programs focused on rural broadband expansion to our students. Wendi Tostenson, LDCC’s vice-chancellor of education and student services, doesn’t want the cost of the course to be a deterrent to potential students and is appreciative of funding partners. “NOVA and EPC provided scholarships for our students,” says Tostenson. Several other local industry partners contributed to the program’s success. Says Caleb, “We brought in industry experts from each of the related fields: Drill Rite taught mud mixing, USIC taught line locating, and operators such as CenterPoint and Atmos Energy hosted damage prevention days as well. Ditch Witch of Louisiana came through for us as well, helping teach the students all the aspects of drill tooling and maintenance of the machinery.” These companies each provided specialized training at no additional cost to the program. With the assistance of the MJ Foster Promise dollars, adults twentyone years of age and older may qualify for a new pool of scholarship funds. “This funding is like TOPS for adults,” shares Dr. Randy Esters, 40 APRIL 2022 | WWW.BAYOULIFEMAG.COM

chancellor at LDCC. “These dollars will help remove further financial barriers citizens may be experiencing and aid them in developing a skill that leads to a high-wage, high-demand career.” EPC is extremely hands-on with students. “Being involved in instruction with these students gives us a chance to see who’s showing up, who’s willing to learn, who made it there on time, and if you couldn’t come if you communicated that to someone. These things are important to any employer,” explains Josh. Student KenDarrius VanBuren (KD) was the very first to be offered employment by EPC. “There are a few things that stood out about KD,” shares Caleb. “First of all, he never missed a day. He was there every day, ready to work. That stands out.” Josh noted KD’s grasp of the skill work. “He’s good,” says Josh. VanBuren was quick to volunteer to try out what was being taught. After receiving his offer of employment, VanBuren had a difficult time hiding the satisfaction of training well done. He said, “This is an unbelievable feeling. Words can’t explain. I’m on to a better career!” When asked who was going to be the first to hear his good news, he said his mom. “She wants the best for her son, and now I can do that. Now I’ve got the opportunity.” EPC & LDCC has changed the trajectory of a life, perhaps some generations of lives. As the Etheridge brothers talked with VanBuren and went over the benefits that would soon be available to him, he beamed with joy and the pride of accomplishment. VanBuren would serve as an example to others. The pathway to success costs dedication and commitment and a willingness to hang in there when nothing makes sense. Looking forward, LDCC plans to create a nationally recognized Utilities Infrastructure Training Center, including a gas technician and utilities lineman training programs. Says Tostenson, “We want to be the training source that delivers skilled workers to companies in this industry. We want to do this by building the training programs with strong partnerships and collaboration with industry experts.” “The requirements for admission to the program are to be over the age of 18, have a positive attitude, and be willing to learn,” says instructor John Garrison. “Now, there may be additional requirements by a hiring company, but these are LDCC’s requirements to enter the program.” For more information regarding this program, workforce programs in general, or becoming a Louisiana Delta Community College partner, call 318345-9384.