New Orleans RTA announces partnership to hire graduates from Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Automotive Technology Program 

Today, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) announced its new partnership with JOB1 Career Solutions to create On the Job Training (OTJT) training for non-violent offenders who successfully complete the requirements of the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Auto Mechanic Apprenticeship Program upon release. Initially, the RTA will hire bus mechanic and body repair technician trainees, both at $23.67 per hour, up to 40 hours per week for a six-month trial period. The agency hopes to expand this program to additional career pathways in 2022. 

“This groundbreaking partnership is indicative of the RTA Board of Commissioners commitment and advocacy for involvement in the region’s workforce development efforts, particularly those focused on restorative justice,” said Flozell Daniels, Jr., RTA Board of Commissioners Chairman. “As one of the largest public sector agencies in the region, we feel it is our duty to expand on our legacy of creating thriving wage jobs for New Orleanians, their families, and our entire community.”  

This partnership is made available through the Workforce innovation and Opportunity ACT (WIOA) which is coordinated through the Louisiana Workforce Commission. As a participant in the JOB1 OTJT program, the RTA will be reimbursed 50% of the participants/trainee’s regular hourly wage excluding payment hours not worked for sick, vacation, holiday, lunch, personal, jury duty, and overtime hours up to a maximum of 40 hours per week. The RTA will compensate participants at equivalent wages and benefits afforded regular employees and intends to transition successful participants to permanent employees once the six-month training program is completed. 

“As New Orleans and the nation continues to rebuild its workforce since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RTA is more focused than ever on building a pipeline of employees who are committed to our regions historic transit system and the riders we serve,” said Alex Z. Wiggins, RTA CEO. “By tapping into the progressive re-entry training programs offered by Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections, RTA is not only building a highly skilled workforce, but also helping justice involved individuals re-enter society successfully. This opportunity will allow them to earn thriving wages to support their families, which will in turn build community and improve the quality of life for all.”  

“The partnership with the New Orleans RTA is a perfect example of the positive impact government agencies can make when we are aligned with the shared mission of uplifting individuals returning to the community from our prisons,” said Secretary Jimmy Le Blanc, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. “This Administration remains committed to providing standardized, evidence-based programming that improves public safety, reduces recidivism, and reduces costs incurred by the correctional system.” 

“On the job training is a key part of LWC’s core mission of not just putting people to work, but helping people get the skills they need to thrive in a new career,” said Ava Cates, Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary. “This partnership helps folks re-enter society with purpose and gives them direction and skills they wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

“JOB1 continues to work toward its goal of meeting people where they are and connecting them to sustainable employment and training opportunities in high-wage, high-demand industries. All of our community members are valuable, so we are diligently working to ensure that we are building and strengthening our employer partnerships to enhance the collective impact,” said Sunae Villavaso, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. 

“The fact is at least 95% of state prisoners will be released. So, the question begs to be answered, how do we want them released—better people or better criminals, taxpayers, or tax takers? Re-entry works and this collaborative endeavor, among different entities, is a testament that the time is now for solutions, not excuses,” said Judge Arthur Hunter (retired).