County administrators and vocational instructors will meet with Lennox residents tonight to gauge community interest in a new job training and placement program.
Officials and residents alike say holding the meeting is like asking a thirsty man if he wants water.
"Yes, we're going in to see if people are interested, but we will more than likely find that 'interested' will be an understatement," said David Shinder, an instructor with Chavez & Associates Institute, a private job-training firm based in the City of Commerce.
The Board of Supervisors has contracted with the Chavez institute to open a center to offer free job training to residents who fall within low-income guidelines or who have been unemployed for at least three months.
Lennox community leaders say the program has sparked excitement and hope in the small, crowded community.
"People are already talking about this program and we have not even announced it to the community yet," said Emma Carrio, who with her husband, Hector, helped to bring the program to Lennox.
Lennox, an unincorporated area between Inglewood and Hawthorne just east of Los Angeles International Airport, is one of the poorest areas in the South Bay and has an unemployment rate estimated at 20%--one of the county's highest, and almost three times the 7.1% figure for the county as a whole.
Lennox's population has nearly doubled in the last decade as a steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Asia, Cuba and the South Pacific crowded into homes left behind by white middle-class laborers who fled the deafening noise of jetliners screeching overhead. Many of the newcomers soon discovered that there were no jobs in Lennox, partly because some of the area's businesses had left along with the middle class.
Ed Cano, an aide to Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, says many of the area's 25,000 residents lack the skills or training necessary to compete for jobs, and county officials estimate that Lennox has one of the largest pools of unskilled and unemployed laborers in the county.
Hahn said he was impressed by the Chavez institute because its two schools in Commerce and Anaheim place more than 90% of their graduates in full-time jobs.
"It is not enough to just train people and send them out on their own," Shinder said. "That is only meeting the problem halfway."
The institute was founded 10 years ago by Richard Chavez, a polio victim who spends 12 hours a day in an iron lung, and the rest of his time in a wheelchair. Disillusioned by the lack of job opportunities for the disabled, he opened his first vocational training institute in Commerce, then expanded to Anaheim. The schools serve economically and physically disabled people.
The Chavez institutes in Commerce and Anaheim offer training in business and finance, word processing and data entry and private investigation, but Shinder said school officials are willing to expand the curriculum in Lennox, if necessary.
"Many people feel the program will have to be changed to meet the needs of the community," said Hector Carrio, president of Lennox School Board and coordinator of bilingual programs in the Inglewood School District's secondary schools.
He and other community leaders are asking the Chavez institute to offer an English-as-a-second-language class. "How can someone master finance or word processing unless they speak English?" Carrio asked. The school has also received requests for classes to train students to be electricians, mechanics and chefs.
County and institute officials are trying to find a place to house the institute. With a $200,000 federal grant and $100,000 in county money, school officials plan to open the Lennox center by June, 1986. It will be the largest of the Chavez schools and will accommodate up to 200 students a year.
Tonight's meeting will begin at 7 in the reception room at Lennox Park at Lennox and Condon boulevards.