Oil Spill Impact Sends Shrimpers Inland To Retrain for New JobsBy Rhonda Miller | Published 01 Nov 2011 11:06pm |
Some Gulf Coast fishermen who have haven’t been able to earn a living since the BP oil spill are heading inland in search of more dependable income. MPB’s Rhonda Miller found several of them in a welding class in Gulfport.
The welding shop at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is only a few miles from the open waters of the Mississippi Sound. The hot metal and sparks are a world away for fishermen who are used to living with the sea and the sun and the shrimp.
"Before, I was working on a shrimp boat with my dad since before I could walk." When he isn’t shrimping, 26-year-old Robert Nguyen works as cook in local restaurants. "It was bad, and after the oil spill, it got worse because people don’t want to eat Gulf shrimp no more. And then on the restaurant side, nobody wants to eat seafood, so I got less hours at the restaurant, too."
Nguyen is one of nine Vietnamese fishermen who have traded shrimping gear for welding equipment under a retraining program funded by BP and coordinated by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. As a case manager for the state employment agency, Annie Nguyen works in collaboration with Asian Americans for Change.
"They’re all ages, but the majority we have signed up for these classes are mostly in their 50s and 60s," she says. "So many of them never set foot in class and many of them don’t speak English, so we’re here to help them bridge the gap and help them through all this."
Minh Vu of Biloxi is 59 years old and has been working as a deckhand on a shrimp boat.
"How do you like welding, so far?" "He said that he likes it, because right now he does not know any other kind of skills, so he has to like it, in order for him to better himself for the future."
In addition to welding, about 50 people impacted by the oil spill are being retrained to work as nursing assistants, heating and air conditioning specialists, and electricians.
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