BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The threat of explosions is an everyday reality for plant workers. Technicians are being placed at area plants to help detect possible causes, but there are not enough.
Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) is tying education with industry to supply the manpower needed to keep the chemical corridor safe.
Sam Kindel, a certified array technician with Capitol Ultrasonics, is conducting a series of tests on a steel plate.
"This is what they need to do on a regular basis to help them monitor areas that have known corrosion," Kindel explains.
He coats the plate with gel and uses ultrasound technology to pick up dings, or dents. It is known as nondestructive testing, or NDT. It is the same process done on at industry plants to find cracks, welding defects, critical flaws that could result in potentially dangerous chemical disasters. A noise, or wave, lets Kindel know something is wrong.
"It's a well with known defects," Kindel concludes.
When it happens at a plant, the damage is repaired and the well or steel is retested before it is put back in service.
Rodney Bonvillian, the owner of Capitol Ultrasonics, said workers who know the technology are in high demand.
"At most of the larger plants we have a full time staff every day," Bonvillian said.
BRCC is helping to fill the immediate need by offering a 16-week NDT testing course to get skilled workers in the field as soon as possible.
Girard Melancon, Ph.D, the Executive Director of Economic Development and Workforce Solutions for BRCC said because this type of schooling is so limited, people from across the country are eager to enroll.
"We have people calling from California and Mississippi looking to participate with this training," Melancon said.
He said industry partners are an important part of developing the curriculum which includes working with trained professionals, like Kindel, who has seen the potential hazards firsthand.
Industry leaders say NDT technicians typically make $40,000 upon completing the course.
BRCC is holding two open houses with industry leaders where prospective students can learn more. The sessions are scheduled for March 20, 2014 and April 10, 2014 at 6 p.m.
They will be held at the Port Allen Training Facility, which is located at 3233 Rosedale Rd., Port Allen, La.
Classes begin on May 12, 2014.
Cost: $3,500 (Payment plans are available.)