Hyundai Offers Training for Inner-City Youths L.A. Program Recognized as Example for Other Cities and Industries

Article excerpt

AT the Kim Hankey Hyundai dealership here, 20-year-old Elias Salas buries his head under the hood of a blue Excel SE. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Mr. Salas is a graduate of one of the first successful training and job placement programs to aid inner city youths in the wake of last year's riots.

The program is also receiving widespread recognition as a successful public/private partnership between industry and education that is being examined carefully for transport to other cities and industries.

"What they gave me might have taken another two years in college and five years experience on the job," Salas says as he tinkers with hoses and gauges. As a member of the first class of "Hyundai Academy," Salas spent 18 weeks in intensive, eight-hours-a-day technical training beginning in July 1992.

The pilot program is a compressed version of a previous program that took two years to complete. Salas earned 12 hours of college credit at no cost to him, while providing Hyundai of America with a needed service technician.

Besides learning his way around carburetors, radiators, and electrical components of new model cars, Salas took a "life-skills" course to prepare him for the ways of the world - from getting along with peers and bosses to understanding other ethnic groups.

The additional skills learned there, he says - including how to interview, write resumes, project positive attitudes, and generally excel - have helped land him and all 25 of the other graduates full-time paying jobs after graduation.

"The academy is unique in that it teaches students much more than how to turn a wrench," says N. Douglas Mazza, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Hyundai of America. "We're interested in moving youth beyond the mechanics of a skill to the mechanics of a career."

Because he was top in his class, Salas won an all-expense-paid, one-week trip to South Korea to visit the world headquarters of Hyundai in Ulsan.

"For those of us who experienced the {1992 Rodney King} riots, it's easier to understand the motives for a program like this," Mr. Mazza says. His firm has invested about $10,000 in each of the 25 Hyundai Academy graduates. "Hyundai is the largest Korean corporation, and we recognized we had to step up and participate in healing the tensions," Mazza says. …