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Louisiana State Capitol (American Press Archives)

Louisiana State Capitol (American Press Archives)

Workforce bill would benefit the state

Last Modified: Saturday, April 05, 2014 8:29 PM

A bill headed to the Louisiana House of Representatives floor would help Southwest Louisiana as it seeks skilled workers for an expected economic growth spurt.

House Bill 1033 would be beneficial to an entire state poised for growth.

The bill, by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, would appropriate $40 million toward funding higher learning programs that would provide graduates to meet workforce needs.

The Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund would focus on “funding degree and certification production and research priorities in high demand fields,” the bill reads. Fields such as engineering, computer science and business are expected to be the top beneficiaries.

In order to receive the funds, schools would have to pony up 20 percent of the funding for specific programs.

A council of higher education representatives would consider how to divvy up the money, although a final decision would come from the Board of Regents.

Passage of the bill would not only help fill jobs, but would do so through local institutions, giving Louisiana students an opportunity to be part of the growth.

While most of the talk surrounding the bill focused on industry, the funds won’t only be allowed for manufacture-related fields. While industry may be what fuels the surge, certainly other areas will benefit as well.

Kleckley said more than 60,000 jobs are expected in Louisiana in the next five to seven years.

The fund “closes major gaps” in the state’s workforce, Stephen Moret, Louisiana Economic Development secretary, said.

Southwest Louisiana has heard the promises — $65 billion in capital improvements expected to bring in 19,000 new jobs. The time is now to prepare to fill those positions.

The bill made it through the House Appropriations Committee on Monday.

For a state whose lawmakers are talking up growth at every opportunity, passage of the bill should be a no-brainer.

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