By Jeremy R. Johnson

It’s 9:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning, one of my classmates and I are headed to New Orleans East, 13200 Old Gentilly Road to be precise. This morning we are headed to what might be Delgado Community College’s best kept secret.

Arriving at Delgado Community College’s Maritime, Fire, Radar and Industrial Training Facility is like something out of a scary movie. A single sign points you down a long driveway that is lined with cars. The only familiar landmark in the immediate area is the now closed NASA facility, but eventually you arrive at several trailers. From there you start to see people getting dressed into full firefighting gear. We met up with Rick Schwab, the Senior Director of this three acre facility, soon to be six acres, and he tells us all we need to know about the Delgado campus no one knows of.

Jeremy R. Johnson (JRJ): How long has this facility been here?

Rick Schwab (RS): “This facility has been with Delgado since 1982, it is part of Delgado’s Workforce Management division. Our main goal is the training of inland and off-shore mariners. We do a lot of petro-chemical training, anything to do with OSHA, or Coast Guard rules and regulations; we do that.”

JRJ: Do you have a specific type of student that is attracted to this sort of training?

RS: “We get in everything, we get anything from a new hire, which is brand new to the industry to people coming in for recertifications. A lot of the people who come through this facility are non-firemen, but they may have fire or navigational responsibilities at their job. Most of our students are professional mariners, or professional industry workers.”

JRJ: I am prior military, one of my responsibilities was navigation. What could your facility have had to offer for myself, or anyone with prior naval service?

RS: “Yes. Of course your sea time would help, you’d start under an apprenticeship program. You would start off at the minimum license, and work your way up.”


JRJ: Do you get a lot of former military personnel in this program?

RS: “Yes we do, but the majority of our people already work in the industry. We work with over 200 different companies, and we train people all over the world.”

JRJ: What kind of hours does this place have?

RS: “People that live in Louisiana work everywhere, the one thing we learned from Katrina is that this industry doesn’t shut down, so we couldn’t shut down. After ‘The Storm’ we were back up and running fairly quickly. We train 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve got guys 200 miles offshore on a rig conducting training, and we also train onboard vessels.”

JRJ: What kind of upgrades are going on at this facility?

RS: “We are just expanding this facility, it isn’t shutting down. We’ve acquired three acres of land from the federal government to expand our facility. We pushed over 10,000 people through this facility last year alone. These course are all non-credit, you could be here from 1 to 21 days, at the end of that time you’ll receive a certificate that is recognized all across the world. We have over 30 adjunct instructors, all our instructors are professionals in the field, who have been there and done that. My staff on hand today has over 100 years of experience; to work here you have to have at least 10 years of real world experience. We are very different from the college.”

JRJ: In what other ways, outside of the obvious, are you guys different?

RS: “We have been working with Big Easy Studios, which is building a set right behind us. You’ve seen The Expendables III and Planet of The Apes, we’ve burned cars for them and blown up stuff. We are all about getting our mission done in a short amount of time. We don’t run by semesters, my staff will enroll 200 people a day, and we will give out 200 certificates a day. Also, because we are our own entity, we charge more than Delgado’s standard tuition rates. We charge corporate rates, not credit rates. We aren’t publicized like the regular campus, everyone who comes here is by word of mouth. We are the second best firefighting school in the country, only behind Texas A&M, who has a 297 acre facility. Our schedules are very flexible as well, we’ve added five new classes since Monday. We are never full, if you’ve got the money, we’ve got the time.”

We concluded our interview with Director Schwab, and we were escorted to a tower at the center of the training field, where Ricky Heyd is keeping a watchful eye from above. There are many classes that are on the field today, and as they are fighting live fires, its Mr. Heyd’s responsibility to ensure that nothing goes wrong. The tower is surrounded by props which simulate real world situations. The props are controlled by Mr. Heyd in the tower, he explains that facility uses massive amounts of fuel each day, and that the cost is not transferred to their clients. Your company could train all day long, and use 200 gallons of fuel or five gallons, and the price remains the same.

Workforce Management plays an important role in what Delgado Community College wants to accomplish in the future. A lot of the new construction happening on its campus is to support their programs. Everyone may not have dreams of a four year university, but merely a means to provide for one’s family. If this is you, then try the Maritime, Fire and Radar Industrial Training program. If you have the money, they have the time.

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