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continued from page 1
Toward the end of the job
descriptions was one for a
security guard. The pay was
over $700 per month and the
only requirement was a high
school diploma. I pointed it out,
and the counselor laughed so
loudly that every head in the
office turned in our direction.
"Be realistic," she said.
After having spent several
hours at the center, I had to
leave to meet other obligations.
I was told to return the next
morning when, hopefully, they
would set up interviews for
some of those office jobs. After
several queries about child care
it was suggested I try to get on a
waiting list for "Headstart."
One counselor offered me some
helpful advice. Since I hadn't
any work experience it would
probably help to impress my
future boss by "fixing yourself
up." (I was wearing a neat skirt
at the time.) "Wear stockings, a
nice dress, makeup -- you know
what I mean."
Gehrig Coleman, a Rice student, was curious too and
offered to go through the program himself. His assumed
background was similar: divorced father of two with no
support; little job experience;
two years in college. When he
arrived at the Service Center,
only one other applicant was
waiting, which created a relaxed atmosphere. Coleman
completed an application form
immediately; the CETA program was fully described to
him; and he was offered testing
and training. In response to his
question on child care, he was
given the name of a nursery
where he was told he would
receive reduced rates.
Saying that he preferred
immediate placement, Coleman
and a Texas Employment Commission counselor discussed
jobs in labor, sales and management training. He told me later,
"It's possible that because I'm
a man and had some college
experience I ended up being
pointed to a management position." He was eventually offered an interview for a job as
manager trainee earning about
$700 per month.
The practice of counselors
earning points for every applicant placed in jobs encourages
direct placement. However, the
main ambition of CETA is to
provide vocational training.
Many CETA applicants receive training at the Skills
Center, 1500 Louisiana. Although the center is a division
of Houston Community College,
the majority of the 466 students
presently enrolled are CETA
participants. Of these, 81% are
Black, 14% are Mexican-American and 5% are White. Trainees
are pre-tested for aptitude in a
given vocation prior to enrollment at the center. During
training each student is counseled regularly to ensure his or
her satisfactory completion of
the course. "We train competent employees ready to enter
the local job market." Students
can work at their own pace in
one of the 17 courses available.
Ernest Luna, director of the
Skills Center, stresses "student
Two hundred women are
enrolled in training programs,
90% of them in the "clerical
cluster," which includes file
clerk, steno I, and clerk typist
training. One man is enrolled in
tbis area. About 15 women are
being trained for non-traditional
jobs, and the ones I spoke to
requested this training on their
own initiative. Most of these
named higher earnings as a
prime incentive for their choice.
They like the programs at the
Skills Center and felt they've
received the same treatment
and training as their male
Janice Melton expects to find
a good job as a machinist
after graduation. But Theresa
Chavez, a welder, thinks she'll
be lucky to find a job as a
trainee when she's through.
She feels a man would not have
The promise of CETA is
realized in these few women.
They exude determination,
foresight and self-confidence.
But for the majority of women,
who do not already possess
an awareness of the broad
range of their alternatives
when they enter the program, is
CETA just another deadend street?
In his new $4,500-per-month
office at One Allen Center,
CETA director Palmer Bowser
outlined services one should
expect to receive at one of
four CETA Service Centers in
He was as cool and polished
as the room he occupied.
tests, "hand-on" skills aptitude
assessment and counseling are
used to evaluate all clients, he
said. A report is then made
indicating four choices for that
candidate and she or he is
referred to such supportive
centers as VGS, Inc., Houston Skills Center and the
General Education Development (GED) and English as a
Second Language (ESL) programs are also offered.
CETA received over 10,000
applicants in the past year. Of
that number, 3,049 completed
job training programs and
found permanent, unsubsidized
jobs. Bowser feels that this is a
"good average," and explained
that some participants enter
college or the armed forces.
Describing the CETA program
as a "big success," Bowser
sees these positive effects on
our city: it benefits the economy, reduces welfare recipients, builds individuals' self-
esteem and reduces crime.
The majority of CETA participants are women. Not only are
they accepted in every area of
training, Bowser said, but counselors are urged to encourage
their training in non-traditional
fields. This view was repeated
at UH's Center for Human
Resources, which trains CETA
counselors. Free day care centers are also provided.
When informed of my experiences, Bowser replied, "I don't
think it is indicative of the
system as a whole."
The CETA program is a study
in contrasts. That women are
not receiving true equality in
guidance and training is a
present reality. That they will is
a promise that is long overdue.