A fair for the fighters

Or­leans Tech is as­sist­ing our her­oes who have re­turned from the bat­tle­field. A fair on Sat­urday will help them to get back on their ci­vil­ian feet.

Mar­ines and Air Force vet­er­an Ed­ward Ben­gochea gets ready for class and says that the plumb­ing and heat­ing train­ing he re­ceived at Or­leans Tech­nic­al In­sti­tute has made all the dif­fer­ence in his ca­reer, Wed­nes­day, Feb­ru­ary 29, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. Or­leans Tech­nic­al In­sti­tute provides spe­cial train­ing pro­grams for vet­er­ans. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


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 fianc&ea­cute;e, 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/re­gister


You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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