University Partnerships Ensure Talent Supply

Louisiana’s fast-growing technology sector is yielding thousands of new software development and information technology jobs as more global players locate in the state. To ensure a sustainable supply of talent for employers, the State of Louisiana has engineered innovative partnerships joining private companies and Louisiana universities.

Technology firms participating in the partnerships — including CGI, CSC, GE Capital and IBM — credit the opportunity to collaborate with higher education campuses as a key reason why they chose to invest in Louisiana.

Partnerships are underway in every part of the state. Canada-based CGI, the world’s fifth-largest independent IT services firm, is working closely with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). In 2014, the firm announced its decision to open a technology center at the UL Lafayette Research Park, a project that is creating 400 professional jobs. The incentive package included a state-funded, $4.5 million investment designed to triple the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded each year by the university’s School of Computing and Informatics.

The relationship is not just about growing the talent pool for new positions. UL Lafayette will develop professional certifications and short courses for existing employees at CGI and other regional tech firms in such disciplines as big data analytics and cloud computing. Moreover, CGI’s Lafayette facility also reflects a culture of collaborative research. The 50,000-square-foot, $13.1 million state-funded building includes an innovation center where CGI clients can see and experience the technology developments pioneered by the company and its university research partners.

CGI Vice President Mark Eschle says the company has partnered with colleges and universities elsewhere, but the innovation center at UL Lafayette will be unique.

“The goal is a direct partnership that will allow us to bring research to bear on the challenges our clients face,” Eschle said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to clients how you can innovate with technology.”

In downtown Baton Rouge, IBM has opened a new technology solutions center that will employ 800 professionals. To create a robust workforce pipeline, Louisiana State University (LSU) is planning to triple the number of undergraduate computer science degrees awarded annually, with the help of a $14 million, 10-year state higher education initiative. The university’s College of Engineering created a statewide campaign to promote interest in technology-related careers among high school students who plan to enroll at LSU.

In Northwest Louisiana, global IT leader CSC is creating an 800-job technology center in Bossier City, where the company is developing solutions in cloud computing, cybersecurity and technology consulting. CSC is partnering with Louisiana Tech University, Bossier Parish Community College and Northwestern State University to expand the number of graduates equipped for employment at CSC through another 10-year, $14 million state higher education initiative. Louisiana Tech already has traction in this area; it was the first university in the country to offer a cyber engineering degree.

In New Orleans, GE Capital recently established a 300-job technology center after evaluating more than 100 sites across the country. To ensure the company has a sustained talent flow, GE Capital leaders are collaborating with the University of New Orleans on a new Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program, or SWEAP. Created by GE Capital and the UNO computer engineering staff, with the assistance of LED FastStart®, students in SWEAP attend classes tied to the company’s computer science needs, gaining work experience, mentorship and industry training. Participants in the state-funded program receive hands-on experience in every phase of projects and can become apprentices and full-time employees at the technology center.

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