In 2012, LED faced both good news and a significant challenge. Buoyed by attractive natural gas prices in the U.S. and a greatly improved Louisiana business climate, companies had announced billions of dollars in new plant construction and expansion plans for Louisiana projects.
The building boom meant more than 86,000 new craft workers would be needed in Louisiana through 2016 — a daunting number with the U.S. approaching a significant shortage of skilled construction workers.
Louisiana already possessed some structural advantages for dealing with a construction challenge. In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina, industry leaders from across the state formed the Louisiana Craft Workforce Development Board (LCWDB) to meet recovery needs. They needed a new sustainable plan for the approaching industrial building boom.
In early 2012, LED helped reassemble the craft workforce board, ensuring Louisiana could develop a detailed plan to recruit and train workers to meet the future building demand. Initially, LED and the LCWDB reviewed training approaches to ensure the construction programs were properly aligned at all technical colleges and training centers.
The partners identified The National Center of Construction Education and Research program (NCCER) as a best-practice model in use by the Associated Builders and Contractors trade group.
The craft workforce board encouraged the adoption of NCCER certification at Louisiana two-year colleges and feeder schools and then launched a review of equipment, resources and capacities of the schools.
At the same time, LED developed analytics to map the Louisiana craft workforce and to identify resources required for future projects, along with a strategy for recruiting craft construction workers from outside the state. After the research phase, the craft workforce board made recommendations that were improved and acted upon by the Workforce Investment Council of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
“We have totally changed Louisiana’s skilled labor training model,” said Connie Fabré of the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance. “I think one of the biggest impacts is that we can offer more training to kids in high school so they can become industry-certified and get a job immediately following graduation.”
“I’ve really been amazed at the speed of action,” said Mike Albano of The Dow Chemical Company. “The technical college system schools have already begun utilizing the NCCER curriculum, which will have a dramatic impact on the number of students ready for the craft jobs of the future.”
In support of these efforts, LED has allocated $4.7 million to craft worker training — a 20 percent increase over the previous year — in addition to a Workforce Training Rapid Response Fund of $10 million, a portion of which will be used for craft training.
In addition, more than $250 million in Facilities with a Purpose funding was approved by the Legislature to expand the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s career and technical education capacity.
“I’m very proud of the way industry, the state and educators came together to get Louisiana on track,” said Plant Manager Kelly Serio of Formosa Plastics. “We have a solid, long-term model for training employees to meet demands of businesses currently based here and companies coming into our region.”