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Thursday, November 27, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Editorial: Potential workers can get on board or be left at station

Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 5:18 PM

Plans for a new $10 million facility that will serve as a satellite campus in Jennings for Sowela Technical Community College is but one more implement in the workforce development toolshed for Southwest Louisiana.

Funded by the state, the 36,000-square-foot facility will replace the outdated Morgan Smith Campus.

And last week’s approval by the Chennault International Airport Authority of an agreement that will help purchase land now occupied by a trailer park as the home for a new $20 million regional training facility at Sowela’s Lake Charles campus is more good news. The Lake Charles City Council and the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury are also sharing in the purchase of the land.

All of this is not a moment too soon.

Joseph Fleishman, Sowela’s vice chancellor for economic and workforce development, says the coming $47 billion worth of energy industry construction, expansion and conversion looming on the horizon will demand 35,000 new skilled workers. His boss, Sowela Chancellor Neil Aspinwall, said the demand will include 5,000 welders over the next four years. Fleishman said there will be a need for 3,600 pipefitters over the same time period.

Industries’ thirst for electricians, machinists, millrights, carpenters and process operators will be equally as difficult to quench.

Sowela stands front and center when it comes to meeting those needs. With that comes the pressure to deliver.

But facilities and training programs are but half the battle. Recruiting students for these training programs is also a key component in the equation.

Sowela, McNeese State University, the Chamber/Southwest, the Louisiana Workforce Development, local government entities and others have, via the media, been making similar pitches: the coming demand for skilled labor will provide the next wave of young men and women entering the job market with solid earning potential and long careers.

If a skilled laborer opts to work weekends and holidays, they have the potential of earning six figures at some of the petro-chemical facilities west of the Calcasieu River. Additionally, the salaries for the majority of these new construction and permanent jobs that will be created by the industrial surge will easily surpass Calcasieu Parish’s median household income of $43,614.

High school upperclassmen, college students, parents, guardians, mentors, school counselors and other advisers must realize not only the good fortune of this opportunity, but how fleeting it may well be.

That’s why the Literacy Council of Southwest Louisiana is doubling efforts to provide opportunities for residents without a high school diploma to earn one or an equivalency so that they may qualify for these training programs.

Training programs continue to ramp up with a series of courses beginning at Sowela this fall.

Potential workers can either get on board or be left at the station.

• • •

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, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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