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CRENSHAW : Training Center Hits Graduation Goal

June 11, 1995|ERIN J. AUBRY

The Toyota Automotive Training Center is in high gear: It has met its goal of graduating 200 students in two years.

"It's been really super," said Alfred Howard, who has been the center's director since October.

The center, which is operated by the Urban League and Toyota, graduated 100 students last week and 100 last year. It has pledged to train 100 students annually and place them in such specialized positions as working on air-conditioning and exhaust systems.

Keith Moore, 27, said the center offered him something he never found the time for: the opportunity to study auto repair. "I was always interested in [auto repair], but never had the chance to do this. Before I came, I could change oil and that's about it," said Moore, who studied air conditioning and now works at Tuneup Masters in Culver City.

Moore, a former youth counselor, said that he brought one of his charges, 19-year-old Chafelli Wright, to the center for an orientation last year--and now both are graduates. "It's helped both of us out," Moore said. "He was going through a rough time . . . and now he has hope."

Although it has met its goal, Howard said the job placement rate this year has fallen off a bit: About 80% of the graduates have found jobs in the automotive field as opposed to 100% last year.

"Some students were offered . . . good-paying positions in other fields, and took them," he said. "They're not unemployed; they went to another field, at least for now."

Created in the aftermath of the 1992 riots, the center trains students to work on air conditioning, brakes and suspension, install accessories and do tuneups, detailing and general maintenance.

Howard instituted a new course last month that teaches students about auto parts and prepares them for jobs behind the counter in auto parts warehouses and specialized auto dealers.

"We really like to give students a good overview of the automotive repair industry," Howard said.

The center has employment agreements with many Los Angeles-area auto-repair businesses and dealers, including Sears, Toyota, Midas Muffler, Don Kott Chrysler, Keyes European Automotive and SmogPro.

Despite the center's success, Howard said he has not been able to increase the number of black students at the center. The student population stands at about 30% African American, 30% Latino and 40% other ethnicities.

But because the center is in a community that is predominantly black and operated in part by an agency that primarily serves blacks, Howard says he would like to see black students account for at least 50% of the enrollment.

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