More than a dozen elected officials and local workforce leaders met Monday to discuss the challenge of providing enough workers to support the growing industries in Southwest Louisiana. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, led the two-hour roundtable discussion at Sowela Technical Community College. (Lance Traweek / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 10:45 AM
More than a dozen elected officials and local workforce leaders met Monday to discuss the challenge of providing enough workers to support the growing industries in Southwest Louisiana.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., led the two-hour roundtable discussion at Sowela Technical Community College.
“Southwest Louisiana seems to be leading the pack,” she said.
By 2018, about $47 billion will be invested in existing plants and projects in the region. And Sasol alone will need 7,000 workers at peak construction in 2016 — only part of the 22,000 total construction workers in demand for the area.
R.B. Smith, vice president of Workforce Development with the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, expressed concerns over a backlog of TWIC cards, or the credentials a person needs to work in industry. Landrieu responded, saying the backlog is “because of federal budget cuts, not enough people to process or maybe the process is too cumbersome.”
From the broad talks, Landrieu said she took away that the federal government should be more flexible with the pell grant program.
“We only fund, basically, two-year college and four-year college,” she said after the meeting. “We need to think about funding more strategic, quicker training opportunities because people can get training in 14 weeks or 16 weeks to take advantage of some of these jobs.”
Sowela Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall mentioned the number of short-term programs Sowela is creating to meet the needs of businesses and industries.
George Swift, Alliance president/CEO, said the 20 percent poverty rate in the area could benefit from the job training opportunities. Swift said he hopes these high-paying jobs will improve the quality of life for the local community.
Larry DeRoussell, executive director of the Lake Area Industry Alliance, wants an accelerated eight-week program that could qualify adults in conjunction with the two-year programs currently offered.
Other participants at the forum: Col. Mike Borrell, National Guard Youth Challenge; Caitlin Cain, SBA Office of Advocacy Region 6; Kelly Craft, SWLA Building and Construction Trades Council; Tony Guillory, Calcasieu Police Jury; Janell Johnson, Imperial Calcasieu Human Resources Management Association; Ann Knapp, Chair SWLA Education and Workforce Development Committee; Bryan Beam, Calcasieu parish administrator; Bryan Moore, Louisiana Workforce Commission; Randy Roach, Mayor of Lake Charles; a Sasol North America Representative Human Resources Director; Jimmy Sawtelle, La. Community and Technical College System (LCTC); Stephanie Seemion, Lake Charles Area Workforce Investment Board; Dr. Phillip Williams, McNeese State University President; Rachel Gragg, National Skills Coalition; Mary Morris and John Ieyoub, Lake Charles City Council.