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Where Workforce
Is Number One.

The workplace of tomorrow will be populated by talented, educated, well-trained people. Louisiana recognizes the importance of preparing its sons and daughters for that future and has fashioned an effective best practice for developing that workforce.

Even before the Great Recession, Louisiana leaders set their sights on a new strategic direction for workforce training. Flexibility and innovation were programmed into state agencies and college campuses. New thinking expedited training. Skills in high demand received priority funding. And from this crucible of innovation, LED FastStart was born.

Eight years later, the Louisiana Economic Development program remains the U.S. gold standard for project-focused workforce training.

“Many states have finally gotten the message that workforce development is Job One in the U.S.,” says Editor in Chief Jack Rogers of Business Facilities magazine. “Louisiana’s FastStart is the best, and the best thing about it is that it keeps getting better.”

Rogers’ remarks accompanied the magazine’s selection of LED FastStart as the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program for the seventh consecutive year in 2016. 

Louisiana’s nimble, collaborative approach touches the workforce supply chain at critical junctures: foundational programs in high school classrooms; intensive skills-training at advanced manufacturing centers on community college campuses; and industry-advised technology classes at research universities.

With that foundation, LED FastStart professionals create a custom plan for recruiting, screening and training a new workforce for expanding firms in target industries, such as advanced and traditional manufacturing, logistics, information technology, corporate offices, and petrochemicals. Manufacturers must create a net 15 jobs and service firms a net 50 jobs to be eligible for the cost-free, comprehensive solutions.

Since 2008, FastStart has delivered highly customized training to 24,000 individuals at more than 150 expanding Louisiana employers. FastStart is a key influencer in why those employers choose to invest in Louisiana over other states and nations. Neither its pace nor performance are qualities companies expect from government agencies.

Nation's #1 workforce program find out why

“I was blown away with FastStart’s flexibility and their capability to customize,” says Tom Yura Sr., the senior vice president and general manager for BASF’s chemical facilities in Geismar, Louisiana, the company’s largest manufacturing site in North America with nearly 2,000 employees and 22 production units.

Man welding LED FastStart®

From day one

More than 300 facilities owned by U.S.-based and international firms are concentrated in Louisiana. The LED FastStart team includes dozens of experienced private-sector professionals from a range of industries. The team’s goal — to help firms efficiently ramp-up through intelligent training — gives workers the skills they need from opening day.

Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever, Louisiana, is one of many higher education institutions that has a record of partnering with industry in training a skilled workforce.

Customized training plans draw from an in-depth analysis of each company’s workforce needs. Elements of that training might encompass workforce safety, regulatory standards, industry-specific benchmarks and leadership development for upper-level managers. 

Recruitment of well-suited job candidates is just as crucial. LED FastStart has created social media recruiting campaigns for technology firms as varied as video game developers Gameloft and EA, and Fortune 500 giants that include IBM, GE and CenturyLink.

LED FastStart owes much of the program’s success to a willingness to eschew one-size-fits-all training.

“We deliver customized training based on whatever it is that a company needs to succeed,” says Paul Helton, the program’s director. “One of the things that makes LED FastStart so successful is that it is designed to be flexible and responsive to specific training needs.”

Louisiana’s new approach to workforce development cultivates meaningful partnerships between state government, private industry and higher education. In every case, regional workforce demand determines training programs and coursework.

It’s a strategy that works for both employers and job seekers, and one that spans the state.

In Baton Rouge, for instance, LED, IBM and Louisiana State University forged a private-public partnership to broaden the pipeline of software programmers for an 800-job IBM technology center. 

With $14 million in state funding, LSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is working to double the size of its computer science faculty and triple the number of annual computer science graduates over five years. The university is also working closely with IBM to add coursework that will equip students with precisely the skills the company needs.

This university-government-industry model is replicated at growing IT hubs across Louisiana, including the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park, where CGI will create 400 tech jobs; and in New Orleans, where the University of New Orleans has developed a first-of-its-kind technology apprenticeship program with GE Capital. 

In Northwest Louisiana, CSRA has teamed up with Louisiana Tech University, Bossier Parish Community College and Northwestern State University on coursework that will prepare students for jobs at CSRA’s 800-job Integrated Technology Center, which is focused on cloud computing and cybersecurity at the National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Technician working LED FastStart®

Manufacturing and more

Workforce training at Louisiana Community and Technical College System campuses likewise reflects regional needs as it prepares students for high-wage, high-demand job opportunities in their local communities.

For instance, the $22 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Bossier Parish Community College will provide a pipeline of skilled workers for Benteler Steel/Tube’s $975 million seamless steel tube mill and steel mini-mill, its first such facilities in the U.S. 

Louisiana State University is working closely with IBM to add coursework that will equip students with precisely the skills the company needs.

With state and local funding, the Bossier training center is equipped with specialized machinery bought by LED FastStart that mirrors Benteler’s actual production tooling. LED FastStart has a dedicated training staff at the center, where Benteler and additional industry experts collaborate to provide hands-on training.

Near Lake Charles in Southwest Louisiana, another $20 million, state-funded facility at SOWELA Technical Community College will train workers for high-wage jobs at Sasol’s $11 billion ethane cracker complex. The SOWELA advanced manufacturing center also supports the expansion of campus process technology and instrumentation degree programs.

Elsewhere across the state, South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette added a Federal Aviation Administration-approved certification in aircraft coatings to ready students for work at Bell Helicopter’s nearby assembly facility. 

And in Avondale near New Orleans, Delgado Community College will build a 45,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing and Technology center to train 3,000 students in marine engineering and other jobs tied to Mississippi River commerce.

Vocational Pathways

Community and technical colleges also are developing intensive training programs to more quickly meet growing employer demand. SOWELA, for example, created a one-of-a-kind, “fast track” program that allows students with a college degree to complete an associate’s degree in process technology in just 16 weeks. 

Accelerated programs that lead to industry credentials in industrial construction, welding and other high-demand fields are part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s goal of doubling student enrollment from about 164,000 to 325,000 by 2020.

Technician looking through pipe LED FastStart®

Great options

Meanwhile, groundbreaking partnerships are reshaping workforce education in Louisiana high schools through a statewide overhaul of its vocational curriculum. The state’s Jump Start vocational diploma gives Louisiana high school students the option of earning valuable industry-based certifications so that they’re immediately prepared for work upon graduating. Students choose from Jump Start pathways that lead to relevant certification in welding, pipefitting, industrial maintenance and more than 40 other areas.

Local job opportunities form the basis of Jump Start curricula, meaning students prepare for real-world work opportunities close to home. Regional advisory teams from industry, technical and community colleges, local workforce training programs, and public school systems together develop the course of study for Jump Start pathways.

FastStart developed the C4M program — Certification for Manufacturing — to prepare students for entry-level manufacturing jobs on the production floor.

Here, too, Louisiana is forging new ground to marry workforce needs with training and education opportunities: LED FastStart developed one of the Jump Start vocational pathways now available to high school students.

FastStart developed the C4M program — Certification for Manufacturing — to prepare students for entry-level manufacturing jobs on the production floor. It provides the C4M curriculum and training at no cost to Louisiana high school and community and technical colleges.

Making C4M relevant to real-world employers was the goal from the program’s inception. To do that, LED FastStart posed one question to manufacturers around the state: What skills did those companies need entry-level employees to possess? Their answers are reflected in the C4M coursework, which includes hands-on instruction in power tools and basic machine operations to prepare students for welding, process technology, machining and manufacturing technology.

Like other workforce initiatives across Louisiana, LED’s role in vocational education responds to employers and students alike. Through C4M, students are prepared to go to work full-time after graduation, so industry gets faster access to a broader talent pool. But students who complete C4M certification in earning their Jump Start diploma can also transfer credit hours toward degree programs at some community and technical colleges or even a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology at Northwestern State University.

In October, LED FastStart partnered with the Dream It. Do It. network to celebrate National Manufacturing Week in Louisiana, with the goal of generating interest among students in manufacturing careers. Developed by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, the Dream It. Do It. initiative showcases opportunities in manufacturing available to youth ranging from elementary school to post-secondary programs. LED FastStart joined with regional and local partners throughout the state to increase manufacturing awareness by scheduling and planning tours of manufacturing facilities, school presentations and visits to community and technical colleges.

Through these workforce development tactics, Louisiana is continuing to fuel the workforce pipeline of tomorrow.

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