New training center for Sowela

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

After Monday’s announcement that Sowela Technical Community College would receive a $20 million grant from the state, school

administrators have met with Sasol officials to discuss what the college can do to meet the company’s projected workforce


The grant money was announced at a news

conference Monday in conjunction with Sasol’s plans to invest up to $21

billion at

its Westlake facility. The expansion will bring 1,200 permanent

positions, 7,000 construction jobs and thousands of indirect

jobs, the company said. And the state has committed to funding a

new training center at Sowela that will focus on industrial


Neil Aspinwall, Sowela chancellor, said Monday’s announcement made for “one of the biggest days in the history of Sowela.”

“This allows us to focus our efforts

and began creating programs and services to answer the needs of the

local businesses

and industries,” he said Wednesday. “Without a regional training

facility like this there is no way we can even begin to meet

the needs of the thousands of jobs coming to this area.”

The grant money has been earmarked to purchase land and equipment, design and build a facility, and even to fund instructional


“We are almost at capacity at Sowela,

so this gives us the opportunity to expand,” Aspinwall said. “There are a

lot of details

that still need to be worked out, but we know this is going to be a

fast track. With expansions coming, business and industry

don’t have time to wait.”

The training center, expected to be up

to 75,000 square feet, will be on Sowela’s campus, but Aspinwall said he

doesn’t know

where yet. Job training will include courses for lab analysts,

machinists, process technology and instrumentation programming.

“My hope with the new center is that we have the tools to put Southwest Louisiana residents to work,” said Joseph Fleishman,

Sowela’s vice chancellor of economic and workforce development. “This is a long-term commitment, and it gives us a way for

us to connect in a very meaningful way with business and industry far into the future.”

Once Sasol’s initial needs are met, the

facility will serve the broader needs of growing manufacturers

throughout the region,

according to the Louisiana Economic Development Department. A

study by LSU’s Division of Economic Development estimated that

Sasol’s expansion will create a total economic impact of more than

$46 million over the next 20 years.