A FastStart with Long-Lasting Impact on Louisiana

A Louisiana Economic Development program helps new and growing local businesses recruit the best and the brightest.

The district in and around the Port of South Louisiana is an attractive hub for various industries. The area is a strategic location for carrying out a myriad of business; this is no mystery considering the proximity to the Mississippi River, robust infrastructure, intermodal logistics options and the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) FastStart program.

Hatched as an economic incentive in 2008 after state government leaders thoroughly explored a similar program in Georgia, LED FastStart implements a unique multi-step process to support new or expanding businesses in Louisiana. With LED FastStart these companies gain a fleet of high-quality, flexible workers on day one of operations.

Business Facilities magazine dubbed FastStart the nation’s best state workforce training program and The Economist said LED FastStart’s efforts are “The most notable statewide workforce-development initiative.”

The FastStart platform is available to companies that are aligned with Louisiana’s economic development targets.

 “Our primary focus is to assist companies offering what we call the ‘Economic Driver’ jobs,” said LED FastStart director Paul Helton. “Those are the kinds of jobs that are going to generate growth and create even more jobs here in the region….These are the kind of jobs that are going to grow the economy beyond the direct jobs. We’re looking for impact.”

For example, as construction continued on Nucor’s $750 million DRI facility in Convent, LED FastStart officials developed customized training materials — meaning that new hires were trained to fully grasp Nucor’s Material Handling Process Flow and other safety methods. As a result, these workers knew all of the necessary processes before the plant’s 2014 opening. The LED FastStart team goes the extra mile to understand the needs of the client — sometimes literally. When working with Nucor, they traveled to existing plant sites both domestically and abroad to fully comprehend the scope of the company’s massive Louisiana endeavor.

“The first thing we do is benchmark the current process – the process that they’re bringing to Louisiana. The facility, the jobs,” Helton said. “Then, we’ll conduct task analysis and process analysis and bring all that data back, along with meetings with the company to assess what their recruitment needs are – what skills and proficiency they’re looking for in workers. From there, we’ll fulfill that recruitment aspect, which could be as simple as posting jobs on our Louisiana Jobs Connection site. Or, it could be as extensive as running a full-scale job fair.”

In fact, Nucor required two job fairs, and it was no problem for LED FastStart. For other businesses, FastStart held recruitment events at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, Louisiana attracting more than 1,000 interested applicants. Beyond that, LED FastStart acts as the hiring flag-waver for the company, producing videos, presentations and informing the community of the soon-to-be-available positions.

Once the word is out, LED FastStart screens all applicants, conducts a pre-employment assessment in which interested workers perform elements of what would be their day-to-day tasks, and in some instances are given value skill-training before the company makes their hires. The skills retained from that worker training have helped applicants who didn’t get hired initially find another better suited job elsewhere. Not all companies need to perform screenings or need pre-employment assessments — but for those companies that do, LED FastStart is an unrivaled resource.

“A lot of the functions we perform are designed to take that burden off the company,” Helton said. “At the time of a move, relocation or expansion, their focus is on what they need to do to the physical plant, or the physical facility – what kind of permitting is required, how we get this piece of equipment up in here, how do we get running on time? Employee hiring is certainly not secondary, but they have other stuff to manage. It’s a benefit and relief for them to know, ‘Hey, FastStart is handling a lot of the hiring and training process.’”

-William Kalec

Categories: Maritime