As a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Air Force, Edward Bengochea has made a nice transition to civilian life.
The 46-year-old from Port Richmond is working as a mechanic at Hyundai Rotem’s railcar plant in South Philadelphia.
Bengochea is good with his hands and has a machinist background from his days in the military. He completed an electrical course at Orleans Technical Institute and, in October 2009, was hired by Hyundai Rotem.
“I was one of the first guys hired. They appointed me shop steward. I enjoy the job,” he said.
Bengochea also took a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) course at Orleans and is enrolled in a plumbing course that runs through November. He has a 94-percent average and perfect attendance.
“Those are three of the best skills anyone can have,” he said of electrical, HVAC and plumbing.
This Saturday, he plans to appear at a veterans’ employment, training and resource fair at Orleans, located at 2770 Red Lion Road.
There, he’ll encourage attendees to take the same post-military route that he did.
“The school has really helped me out,” he said. “The instructors are the best.”
Employers look favorably on job applicants’ resumes who’ve gone to the school, according to Bengochea.
In fact, G.I. Jobs, a magazine for ex-military members transitioning to civilian life, recently named Orleans a “Military Friendly School.” The top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools were so honored.
“When they see ‘Orleans,’ your chances are better,” Bengochea said.
Gary Lachow, director of placement at Orleans, believes time spent in the service is also an asset.
“Veterans are more likely to receive work due to their military background,” he said.
The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and tours are available. An aide to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz will be on hand to answer questions.
Visitors will learn about education benefits available to them and be able to sign up for them online. There will be information on health care services, job placement assistance, resume building, career coaching and the six hands-on job training programs offered at Orleans.
“You can learn so much and be certified in any of these courses,” Bengochea said.
A 1983 graduate of Thomas A. Edison High School, Bengochea joined the military in the aftermath of the October 1983 bombing of a barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that housed American and French service members.
In all, 299 service members were killed, including 241 Americans. The 220 Marines killed marked the largest single-day loss for the Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Bengochea signed up for the Marines in 1984. He served 15 years and spent another five years in the Air Force, splitting time between active and reserve duty. He’s proud of his 20 years of service.
“I learned a lot and became a good leader,” he said.
Today, the father of 12-year-old twins works a day shift and attends night classes at Orleans. Students in the 13-month courses attend classes Mondays through Thursdays from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Evelyn Casillas, his fiancée, is looking forward to his graduation next fall so the two can spend more time together. They’re getting married on Aug. 31, 2013.
Bengochea believes he has sufficient skills to do side jobs or major work around his house, or even to rehabilitate homes for resale.
Saturday’s fair will explain to veterans that they are probably eligible for significant tuition grants from the federal government to be used at schools such as Orleans.
“This is a good opportunity for these guys coming home to go to school,” Bengochea said. ull;•
Military veterans are welcome, as are the relatives of those who will soon be discharged.
To register or for more information, call 215-728-4733 or visit www.orleanstech.edu/registerEndFragment