In Louisiana, global manufacturers are discovering what makes the state’s workforce approach special. After LED FastStart® earned accolades as the best state workforce training program in the nation, Louisiana leaders capped that success by introducing an innovative, facilitybased approach to training.
The new approach creates specially equipped training centers to support major new capital investments by industry. Recent major investments by Sasol Ltd. of South Africa and Benteler Steel/Tube GmbH of Germany mean those companies will gain recruiting, teaching and training support in new buildings equipped specifically for their industrial processes. After LED FastStart ramps up their workforces, other Louisiana manufacturers will reap the benefits of specially tooled and staffed centers to provide ongoing training.
Months before Sasol selected Westlake, La., as the site of a $16 billion to $21 billion integrated gas-to-liquids (GTL) and ethane cracker complex, LED FastStart customized a Sasol training program for the future site’s 1,253 new workers. Based on Sasol’s needs, LED FastStart recommended a training center be built at SOWELA Technical Community College in Lake Charles. The $20 million facility will include the latest equipment for industrial technology training.
“When Sasol began working with LED on our previous project to build the world’s first ethylene tetramerization unit at our existing Westlake Chemical Complex, we began to appreciate FastStart’s capabilities,” said Michael Hayes, manager of public affairs, Sasol North America.
LED and Sasol knew that technical colleges and McNeese State University were meeting existing needs, but the GTL project required a new level of training support. Hayes said developing a project of this size in the U.S. means competition for skilled labor will be stiff.
“Training facilities like this are going to help us broaden and deepen the class of employees that come out of the training pipeline, not only for Sasol, but for all industry,” Hayes said.
In Northwest Louisiana, a proposed $22 million workforce training center at Bossier Parish Community College helped seal Benteler Steel/Tube’s decision to build a $900 million facility in Shreveport – the largest capital investment in the history of the Benteler Group.
“Benteler utilizes complex and advanced technology; therefore, it’s important to qualify future staff for those specific demands,” said Matthias Jaeger, president and CEO of Benteler Steel/Tube.
“Workforce training programs are typical for large manufacturers in the auto world, but not in industry sectors like Benteler’s,” said Jeff Lynn, executive director of workforce development programs for LED. The highly customized approach also will build capacity in Southwest Louisiana, where Sasol is at the epicenter of $30 billion of industry expansion within the next few years.
“We’re taking an innovative approach and investing in current as well as future industry-specific needs,” Lynn said. “We want people to know that Louisiana is serious about workforce training.”
Sasol’s Hayes noted that the new training facilities will focus on Louisiana residents first. “We think that’s important because the best workers are the ones that are homegrown people from Louisiana, who understand Louisiana and the kind of work that we do.”