High school students gain experience with marine safety class

MORGAN CITY, La. — High school seniors in the parish are getting hands-on marine safety training this semester that will prepare them to work in the oil and gas and offshore industries with the introduction of a new course at South Central Louisiana Technical College.

In January, 11 seniors from area high schools began taking a semester-long course called “Go Safe” which will give them the chance to earn 27 different industry certifications by the time they graduate in May.

The type of training instructors are teaching, however, is not a new thing for the technical college. The college has been providing the training for workers in the offshore industry for 12 years, said Carl Moore, SCLTC Young Memorial Campus marine coordinator.

On Wednesday, students took part in a firefighting exercise that included putting out a live fuel fire, said instructor Randy Savoie. “They have on the entire bunker gear,” Savoie said. “This is part of U.S. Coast Guard basic safety training. It is also part of the international maritime organization.”

Students have classroom time with lectures and are tested in addition to the field experience. The course is three hours a day, five days a week.

The course is being offered through a partnership between SCLTC and the St. Mary Parish School Board, Moore said. “The high school guys or girls, they find it interesting because it changed the way school is done,” Moore said. “But we’re trying to make them more valuable if they go to college or more valuable if they don’t go to college.”

Representatives from the technical college visited local high schools prior to the semester to recruit students for the class, Moore said.

Staff members at SCLTC talked with members of the school board and came up with a curriculum that all newly hired employees in the offshore industry need to know and added some additional parts to the course, Moore said.

Students in the course shared their experiences and career plans.

“It’s better than being in a classroom in English class because it’s hands on. You learn better,” said Brett LeBoeuf, a senior at Morgan City High School. He is thinking of following his father, who works at InterMoor, into the offshore industry, LeBoeuf said.

Dontray Triggs, a senior at Patterson High School, said he is taking the course to broaden his choices once he graduates high school. “I already work at Oceaneering. …This course is going to help me over there … get the big money,” Triggs said.

Triggs wants to work as a remotely operated vehicle technician.

Taking this course will help students be ready to enter the work force in local industries, Moore said. “If I’m sitting in a room with potential employees, and I have that one potential employee that has all this training. He’s much more valuable because I don’t have to spend the money to send them out, hire them and then train them,” Moore said.

Of all the certifications the students are getting, the most essential certification that is required just to be hired by many industrial companies is the Safe Gulf/Safe Land certification, Moore said.

“You really can’t walk through a gate now without having that type of training … Exxon and BP and Shell and all the major suppliers, they want that type of training,” Moore said. “That’s an awareness class, and it really goes through everything that the student will see on the job.”

Ryan Bowman, a senior at Berwick High School who is taking the course this semester, wants to join the Coast Guard, but has thought about possibly working in the offshore industry, he said. “I just wanted to give it a shot maybe if I wanted to go do something offshore, I’d already be a step ahead of the game,” Bowman said. His experience with the class has been really helpful, and he would definitely encourage others to take it, he said.

Dillion Burgess, a senior at Centerville High School, said the firefighting training has been most challenging out of everything he has done so far in the class. “We had to go rescue a dummy and there was smoke … and we couldn’t see,” Burgess said.

Burgess is anticipating the water survival part of the class to be a challenge as well “because I know we’ve got to get dunked under water and spun under water,” he said.

Moore said instructors are already recruiting students to take the course in the fall.

“One of the things we learned with the BP oil spill is there was not a lot of trained individuals,” he said. “We actually did a lot of training. … This is our way of helping out our local community.”

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