22,000 construction workers in demand for Southwest Louisiana

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

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.