With more than 20 years of experience in the safety and compliance fields, Henri Quereau found himself searching for a job when his oil services company began laying off employees to reorganize amid a downturn in the industry.

“I applied for one job and asked how many applicants. I was told 65 and they all had similar experience. It really floored me how bad the impact of this downturn has been,” Quereau said Monday to a small group of job seekers. “It’s very competitive. I know the dilemma.”

Quereau was able to find work by selling his experience and his eligibility for a federal grant program that reimburses employers for new employees’ training time. About $2.1 million was made available for the seven-parish Acadiana area to help employees get back to work by funding their training, said Cortney Boutte Breaux, a planner with the Lafayette Workforce Investment Board.

The funding is part of a federal “job-driven national emergency grant” to help put people impacted by the economic downturn back into the workforce, Breaux said. The grant reimburses employers for the new employee’s training time up to $5,000. About $388,000 is available specifically for Lafayette, and the local workforce office is recruiting employers to participate in the on-the-job training grant program, she said.

So far, a dozen employers have participated in the program, Breaux said.

Quereau said the grant program was a selling point for his new employer, Kheiron Safety Services, a small safety consulting company based in Lafayette. The company’s client base includes a majority of industries that provide some sort of support for oil and gas service companies.

The grant has helped Kheiron grow its small staff and add to its client base, said Shane Istre, CEO of the company that’s barely a year-and-a-half old.

The training reimbursement offered by the grant helps small companies and startups, Istre said.

“His résumé was intimidating,” Istre said of Quereau. “We’re a small, new company. We didn’t think we’d be able to afford to hire someone with his experience. Without this grant, we wouldn’t have been able to build this position and hire him.”

Istre and Quereau spoke to job seekers about the program at the Lafayette Business and Career Solutions Center where those looking for employment can seek services offered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Istre has also hired another consultant using the on-the-job training grant.

Istre advised job seekers to bring a copy of the grant information along with them when they drop off their résumé and push it as a way to market themselves.

“It made a difference between (Quereau) getting hired and not getting hired,” Istre said. “Remember, it’s an on-the-job training program. You may know your field, but no matter what job you go to, you’ll need to learn new software or other aspects of a company’s procedures. There’s always training required.”

Deanna Tolliver, 42, said she hoped the grant program would help give her an edge and make her more marketable in her search for a new career. She said she first learned of the on-the-job training grant option during Quereau and Istre’s presentation Monday.

She’ll finish an online degree in occupational health and safety in January and previously was a courier for a national delivery company before she was laid off.

“I think it’s a good opportunity because it gives people like me an opportunity to go to an employer with an advantage,” Tolliver said.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.