(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 8:43 PM
A regional bank deserves a tip of the cap for providing money that will help train the workforce for the industrial construction surge coming to Southwest Louisiana.
Capital One Bank has promised a grant of more than $80,000 to provide scholarship assistance for a compressed Workforce Development program Sowela Technical Community College geared to training welder, millrights and machinists.
The money will be used to pay for one-third of tuition for 83 students.
“The generous support from Capital One Bank is truly an innovative solution in opening the door for low- to moderate-income students,” said Sowela Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “Federal financial aid is typically only available for credit courses in two-year and four-year degree programs. People seeking skills training in non-credit courses such as welding and machining are not eligible for financial aid through traditional means.
“As a result of the scholarship support from Capital One Bank, our non-credit machining and welding programs at Sowela are available to the individuals who need it the most.”
The intense training course lasts 24 weeks as Sowela ramps up to meet the looming demand for skilled workers. One estimate has suggested that the coming expansion in Southwest Louisiana’s petro-chemical complex will require 5,000 welders and 3,500 pipefitters.
The more of those jobs that can be filled by area residents, the better for our corner of the state. Hence, the fast-track approach to training workers.
Nineteen students are currently enrolled in a accelerated program to train machinists and millrights. Two more classes in machining and welding will be offered during the evening hours beginning November 4.
Dr. Joseph Fleishman, Sowela’s vice chancellor for Workforce Development, said the bank’s partnership with the college was a “perfect example of thinking out of the box.”
“This is a case of scholarships impacting the lives of up to 83 individuals and helping them secure employment in good paying jobs and in careers that are in high demand,” he said.
Heretofore, most of the donations in money and equipment for workforce development at Sowela has come from companies that will be hiring these graduates of the program. There’s no such direct benefit for Capital One.
“At Capital One Bank, we are committed to investing for good in our local communities, and a major component of that commitment is supporting workforce development,” said Fil Bordelon, the bank’s Lake Charles Area president. ‘‘Through this partnership with Sowela, we are addressing a key building block of economic opportunity in Lake Charles and surrounding communities.”
Aspinwall said other companies are considering similar type scholarship donations.
We hope that is true because the shear size and scope of the need for skilled labor training just can’t be left up to state and local government and the petro-chemical companies to fund.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.