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Youth ChalleNGe Program to graduate 28 cadets in new pilot program

La. National Guard’s YCP offers first-ever industry-based certifications

By 1st Lt. Rebekah Malone, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office

PINEVILLE, La. – For the first-time ever, the Louisiana National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program will graduate 28 cadets with an industry-based skills certification as part of its workforce development pilot program, Dec. 12.

This pilot program was developed by LANG YCP to provide graduating cadets with the education and certifications they will need to immediately go into the work force or continue their education with in-demand skills from the industry sector. According to Col. Michael Borrel, director of educational programs for the LANG, this is a great opportunity for Louisiana’s at-risk youth.

“It is an incredible honor for us to serve as the pilot program for this amazing opportunity for our youth. I think it speaks volumes about the Louisiana National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program,” said Borrel. “I could not be more proud of the hard work and dedication my staff has put into developing the relationships with our community partners, programs and employers that are needed to provide our youth with real, employable skills the minute they step foot out our door.”

In partnership with the Central Louisiana Technical Community College, the LANG YCP now offers well-matched cadets the chance to pursue one of three industry-based skills certifications in welding, industrial manufacturing or patient care technology.

“The goal of the workforce development program is to expose cadets to different career paths, and to provide access to training that will prepare them for various opportunities that will promote economic independence and good citizenship,” said Remus Jones, the new workforce development coordinator for the LANG. Jones’ position is funded by the National Guard Youth Foundation, and is the first, and only, position of its kind in the nation.

The first phase of the pilot program began at Camp Beauregard in July. In February, the pilot program will be offered at Camp Minden through the Northwest Technical Community College, and in April at Carville through the River Parishes Community College.

In addition to providing the skills training, the first-ever job fair introduced cadets to 25 employers from across the state, including Roy O. Martin, Turner Industries and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at Camp Beauregard, Dec. 1. The National Guard Youth Foundation and the National Black Chamber of Commerce held the job fair to launch their national workforce development program.

“With the help of our partners at the National Black Chamber of Commerce, this workforce development program will not only facilitate job fairs, but also provide skills training, access to technical programs and job placement opportunities to graduates of the LANG YCP,” said Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Allyson R. Solomon, president of NGYF. “It is our goal to provide these young men and women with the resources they need to grow into independent adulthood, and we are very appreciative of the support we are receiving from members of the community to help them take their next steps.”

Turner Industries sees the cadets as eager employees that have the focus and discipline they are looking for, already interested in the type of positions they offer.

“It’s a tremendous help, knowing the cadets leave here headed in the work-force direction,” said Wayne Tyson, workforce development manager with Turner Industries. “They have the education, life skills, and direction to get on the right road. I think it’s a worthwhile and untapped resource.”

Charles DeBow III, vice president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce estimated that roughly 35,000 jobs in the energy sector are in development in the Lake Charles area. He said the graduating cadets are perfect candidates for some of these jobs, as they have already experienced challenges in life and are looking forward, as opposed to dwelling on the past.

“It’s unprecedented. It’s never happened before,” he said. “We have committed resources to a clear and obvious need toward those left behind. We need to make this work as a model for the rest of the country. The types of jobs are a match to the curriculum offered by YCP.”

For 17-year old Aaron Roberson, of Baton Rouge, the opportunity to graduate from YCP with the welding certification was more than he could have hoped for.

“To me, it’s a guaranteed future to a better life. It’s finally a right decision and it’s finally a way to make my family proud,” he said.

LANG’s YCP was started in September of 1993 and will mark its 20,000th graduate on Saturday. More than 958 cadets have graduated from YCP, with 9,267 hours of college credit from Bossier Parish Community College since the partnership started in 2013. Additionally, 539 cadets have been awarded credentials by the National Center for Construction and Education Research. All of these programs are earned at no cost to the cadet.

Davonta Jackson, also 17-years old and from Baton Rouge, had some advice to anyone interested in YCP.

“If you don’t know what this is, if you aren’t on the right path, come to YCP,” said Jackson. “You will make better decisions.”

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