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CARSON : School Sparks Teen Interest in Electronics Jobs

July 07, 1994|MARY GUTHRIE

As a curious little boy, Alex Ruelas liked to take apart all kinds of appliances. But the machines rarely recovered.

Recently, Ruelas dissected a brand new personal computer, and when he put it back together, it worked the first time he flipped the switch.

His new skill with electronic equipment comes from a vocational training program called the Pioneer Academy of Electronics. The academy, near Watts, was established after the 1992 riots to give vocational training to young people in South-Central Los Angeles.

The academy held a tassel-and-gown ceremony for its first 19 graduates last Thursday (6/30) at the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center. Eight of the graduates will come to Carson this summer to work at the Pioneer plant. The corporation donated $500,000 to the program.

Although 30 youngsters started the program in 1992, the long hours and college-level work made many drop out.

Each day after school, the students spend 3 1/2 hours at special electronics courses. Besides working with computers, they receive basic training in the repair of videocassette recorders, compact disc players, laser disc players and other home electronics. Guest speakers discuss interviewing techniques and professional etiquette.

The students applied for the program through their high school's guidance counselors. The selection committee looks for C-average students who score well on a math aptitude test.

The next class of students will start their senior year in the fall, and program organizers will soon select a new group of first-year students. At the graduation ceremony, Ruelas accepted valedictorian honors. He also earned a $2,000 scholarship from Pioneer to help him through Cal State University Long Beach, where he will study electronics starting in the fall.

Until school starts, Ruelas will work full time at Pioneer's plant in Carson. Last summer he worked there on a paid internship. He doesn't know what his job will entail, but during his internship he checked the alignment of laser disc machines assembled at the plant.

Other students will take entry-level electronics jobs rather than go on to college. A beginning technician earns about $21,000 a year, with experienced electronics workers making more than $30,000, according to the Electronic Industries Assn.

Even the students who don't want to continue in electronics said they got something out of the program. Joy Harper, 17, will study journalism at Cal State Northridge next year. She said she got good internships and contacts.

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