Legislature: Workforce education bill passes House

By By Jim Beam / American Press

BATON ROUGE — The House voted 100-0 Wednesday for a bill that establishes a $40 million fund that higher education institutions

can use to pay for high-demand degree programs.

House Bill 1033, by House Speaker Chuck

Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, moves to the Senate. It had 69 co-authors

after it was approved.

Kleckley said a number of state areas are expecting accelerated economic development that will require training in high-demand

fields like engineering, computer science and business.

Southwest Louisiana is expecting $65 billion in development in the next three to eight years, he said, and that will create

10,000 permanent jobs and many more construction jobs.

Sasol in Westlake is spending $21 billion to increase its industrial capacity, Kleckley said.

LNG plants in the area are undergoing changes that will make it possible for them to export natural gas to other countries.

The $40 million isn’t in the budget at

present, and Kleckley said that is an issue that will be decided by the

House Appropriations

Committee.

The bill creates the Workforce and

Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund, which universities could use to

pay for degree

programs and the hiring of professors. Universities would have to

come up with a 20 percent local match from private interests

to pay for their specific degree programs. 

The legislation provides that officials

with several higher education institutions — known as the WISE Council —

would review

workforce demands within the state and identify which job fields

and degree programs have employment gaps. The Board of Regents

would approve the council’s workforce analysis. 

The bill requires higher education system presidents to report annually to the WISE council on progress being made toward

degree, certificate and research priorities. It also requires the information be posted on board websites.

Staff Writer John Guidroz contributed to this report.