GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some students have never graduated from high school, while several in the class actually have Master's Degrees. What they all have in common is they don't have a job and they blame it on Katrina.
"I was cooking at a restaurant. I was at it for 15 years. We were displaced because of the storm, I lost my job. And when we came back, there were no jobs around," said Roderick Tyler of Gulfport.
So Roderick Tyler enrolled in the Mississippi Trained and Ready program in Gulfport to learn new job skills.
"Some people have been without a job for two to three years. They don't remember how to write a resume. They don't remember how to dress for an interview or they're going into a different field," Program Manager Sabrina Castro said.
The classes take from three weeks to three months, depending on which course you choose. The Work Readiness Class focuses on writing resumes, balancing budgets, even dealing with post-traumatic stress issues. Participants can get $360 if they complete the 12-day course.
Another class prepares you for the GED. If you pass the test, you can make $250. The test is also paid for.
And if your interest lies in Hospitality or Culinary Arts, there are classes for those industries, too. You can earn up to $625 as part of a paid internship program.
"You are getting paid to learn, that is the best part, definitely," said Castro. "This is really an exciting program."
You don't have to be directly impacted by Katrina to sign up for the program. Even if you've lost your job in recent weeks, you can still apply. The only condition is you must have lived in south Mississippi prior to the storm.
"Once they graduate, we hope to get them a job. That's the ultimate goal," said Castro.
"I'm going into Culinary Arts to be state-certified so I can open a catering business," said Tyler. "I want to get me a loan and further myself so I can be well prepared to provide for my kids as well."
Other training sites are in Pascagoula, Waveland, and Picayune. About 480 people are expected to go through the program by the end of June. It's being funded by the National Emergency Grant and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
For more information or to apply, call (228) 863-8005. Local employers who have job openings and are interested in finding applicants can also call that number for more information.