Building a Stronger Foundation

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation gives individuals and business owners the tools they need to grow and thrive.

The services and impact of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana don’t just extend to the established business community. To ensure equity and opportunity for all, a separate branch within the Chamber provides education, training and networking opportunities to Spanish-speaking individuals who are looking for pathways into new careers.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Foundation (HCCLF) has its own unique function and mission, with a focus on more personalized, Spanish-language programming.  HCCLF aims to foster the continued economic growth, development and promotion of education within the Hispanic community, and it does so by building capacity and connecting qualified talent with employment opportunities. 

“The foundation is open to help those who are actively seeking jobs and want to learn how to improve their skill set,” says Paula Belanger, director of HCCLF. “HCCL, as the organization umbrella for the Foundation, makes all the connections with organizations that can sponsor the cause of the Foundation and bring procurement opportunities for all the Hispanic businesses.”  

Simply put, the Foundation exists to assist the local community, whether that assistance takes the form of general services like training and education or critical services such as translation. 

“We want to close the gaps of disparity and inequity and offer more opportunities for the Hispanic and Latino community,” Belanger says. “The Hispanic community is always in need of resources that can contribute to the development of skills, with content in their language and training for small business owners that contribute to improve their chances to become more efficient, productive and successful.” 

In addition to free workforce and training services, HCCLF also offers a series of business development seminars. The series includes topics like Fundamentals in Accounting, QuickBooks Cloud, Quickbooks Desktop, Digital Marketing and Social Media, Human Resources, Sales, Understanding Contracts with the Government and more. Other services include career counseling, web-based employment training, resume and cover letter assistance, interview preparation and job placement. 

At present, the Hispanic community in Louisiana surpasses four million people (per the 2020 Census), and the population is expected to change substantially in the next 10 years. According to unidosus.org, which shows the growth and impact of the Hispanic community on the United States as a whole, nearly 80 percent of Latinos are U.S. Citizens; 21 percent of the 16.6 million students enrolled in undergraduate programs are Latino; and an average of 1 million Hispanics turn 18 each year (thereby becoming eligible to vote). 

After looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why it’s important to foster economic growth, and the development and promotion of education within the Hispanic community. 

“We want to level the field of opportunities to help the Hispanic and Latino workforce to be better prepared for the job market,” Belanger says. “We also want to help the small business owners stay informed, up-to-date, well-trained and ready to create jobs, improve their businesses and the overall economy of the state.” 

One of HCCLF’s main initiatives is its digital literacy program (supported by sponsors Cox Communications, Verizon and AT&T), which provides basic computer training. The program recently launched its third cohort of classes. 

“The digital literacy program is the integration of nine modules—skills, personal formation, use of technology, financial literacy, job readiness, interview training and cultural competence—with the purpose to help participants gain a competitive profile for the job market and/or to be ready for continued education,” Belanger says. “Each module lasts three days; each cohort lasts nine weeks.” 

The next cohort of students starts in November, and HCCLF expects no less than 50 participants per round.  Aside from digital literacy, HCCLF has several other projects in the works, including the development of content related to IT and project management. 

“We see there is a need for it with the construction industry booming, and we could help many young adults and people in general to gain knowledge and open great job opportunities,” Belanger says. “We also are really excited to bring back our peer-to-peer roundtables, because this is an environment where colleagues from different corners of the local industries learn and share experiences about how each one of them approach their challenges within the culture, the economy and technology.” 

HCCLF also provides Spanish-English translation services, which were critical for individuals and businesses applying for aid during the pandemic. The Foundation is currently focusing its efforts on creating classes with practical content for business owners, as well as for adults and young adults who are looking to improve their skills to go back to work, transition industries or continue adult education. HCCLF also plans to expand its bilingual programming in the near future—in partnership with other organizations—to include STEM education for youth. 

“After the pandemic and the recent natural disasters, the need to fulfill the work capacity in the economy is a must,” Belanger says. “We also want to create alliances that benefit the community’s needs in education for job placement and job creation.” 

Anyone wishing to benefit from HCCLF’s services, including digital literacy and workforce training, is encouraged to reach out to the Foundation. Additionally, business owners interested in hiring HCCLF’s program participants are encouraged to make contact. 

HCCLF can be reached at (504) 305-5901 or info@hispanicchamberla.com.