Five weeks after being named president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Stephen Waguespack said he is focused on workforce development, with more than $90 billion worth of investments coming to Louisiana.
“Going forward we have to think of how we can be effective for the next 40 years, and that’s what I’m focused on,” Waguespack told the American Press editorial board on Tuesday.
He dubbed Southwest Louisiana the “epicenter” for the state’s economic growth.
“If we’re going to fix whatever workforce challenges we have, (Southwest Louisiana) is going to have to be a big part of the solution,” he said.
Business and industry will demand more than 69,000 science, technology, engineering and math workers over the next five years in Louisiana. And streamlining the necessary training to fill the projected jobs will be a top priority of LABI, he said.
“We’re on the verge of something great here in Louisiana,” he said. “You always want to have challenges with growth than no growth.”
Waguespack said math and critical thinking are needed in grades K-12.
He said matching the jobs needed with “relevant education” will take Southwest Louisiana and the state to the next level.
“The plant down the street is competing in a global economy, and the jobs they have today require that skill set,” he said.
LABI supports Common Core as a “standard — not a curriculum,” he said.
“It’s critical that local educators and parents have a say in what type of curriculum is going to be delivered,” he said. “This myth of a national curriculum is indeed a myth.”
He said LABI wants a strong higher education system in Louisiana but wants there to be better “alignments and efficiencies.”
“There are programs out there that may not be meeting a workforce demand,” he said. “There are ways that higher education institutions can partner more effectively in delivering services to an area.”
If there is a workforce need in the area, Waguespack said there shouldn’t be multiple institutions with overlapping services.