Educating for Today
A look at what local colleges are doing to boost workforce development
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in trade, transportation and utilities in Louisiana averaged around 383,000 from March to August of this year. Construction jobs have grown from 147,000 to 154,000 in that same time period. Healthcare — another growing industry — currently employs 130,960 people in the state according to the BLS.
It makes sense then that programs highlighted by several of the two- and four-year institutions in Southeast Louisiana include construction, engineering, healthcare and jobs in the maritime industries.
Northshore Technical Community College
“You have to have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry,” said Tina Tinney, the vice-chancellor of strategic initiatives at Northshore Technical Community College (NTCC).
The college recently announced several new initiatives that coincide with the opening of its new STEM Center in Lacombe in February to offer workforce training in highly competitive fields such as engineering and maritime.
NTCC has created a two-year maritime technology program on the Lacombe campus that offers industry-based certifications. The college also offers a course called Maritime Mondays to expose high school students to the necessary skill sets for that industry.
“There’s definitely more appreciation for skilled and middle management labor,” said Tinney. “We are trying to create these pathways in areas that will ultimately lead to a higher quality of life.”
In September 2016, NTCC announced that students interested in engineering jobs or the maritime industry who completed certain course requirements could complete a four-year degree at either the University of New Orleans College of Engineering or at the University of Southern Mississippi. Students would be able to complete their degrees in specialties such as civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering, as well as naval architecture and marine engineering.
New Orleans Career and Technical Center Coming Next Year
This past July, the Orleans Parish School Board met to discuss the New Orleans Career and Technical Center, the goal of which is to train students interested in fields including health sciences, IT and skilled crafts or trades. Scheduled for a soft opening in 2018 at a location yet to be determined, the center will operate on a half-day schedule. High school students will be welcomed after their regular classes and offered the opportunity to work in spaces with materials and equipment in the trades in which they are interested.
The New Orleans Career and Technical Center will offer two courses for students interested in carpentry or working as medical assistants. The OPSB said it’s planning on either renting space or partnering with another organization until 2020 when they can open the center in its own space.
University of New Orleans
John Nicklow, president of the University of New Orleans, said that UNO has experienced growth in admissions in their engineering department, as well as the computer science program. Admissions numbers at UNO’s College of Engineering grew from 768 undergraduate students in 2016 to 884 in 2017. The Department of Computer Science has experienced similar growth, from 354 undergraduate students in 2016 to 389 in 2017.
“Our focus isn’t so much on vocation, but we are looking at ways to grow the talent pool,” said Nicklow. “We need people who can think critically and evolve. We’re not just hiring for today, we’re hiring for tomorrow.”
Partnerships with the U.S. Navy and NASA enable UNO to improve its curriculum based on the type of training employers require of their employees, he added.
In 2013, UNO announced that it was partnering with GE Digital to develop an apprenticeship program for students studying software engineering. The Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program is run by veteran software engineers and enables students to work as paid part-time software developers.
Nicklow said that 24 out of 25 students in the program last year were hired at GE.
He added that UNO’s healthcare management program is also growing and students in the university’s pre-med, pre-nursing and pre-dental program have high acceptance rates into medical schools.
University of Holy Cross
Across the river at the University of Holy Cross (UHC), the administration is also focused on the growth of its healthcare departments.
Victoria Dahmes, vice-president for academic affairs, noted that UHC’s bachelor of science in nursing is a major contributor to workforce development efforts regionally and was recently ranked fourth in Louisiana by RegisteredNursing.org.
The university partnered with Ochsner Health System to develop their Radiologic Technology Program, a nationally accredited program that combines academic and clinical study. Students can take classes at Holy Cross and at an Ochsner campus, Dahmes explained.
UHC has a similar affiliation with Ochsner for their neurodiagnostic technology program, which qualifies students to work as a telemetry monitor in a hospital setting or as an EKG technician.
“For the second year in a row the university can boast a 100 percent student pass rate,” said Dahmes.
"Our focus isn’t so much on vocation, but we are looking at ways to grow the talent pool. We need people who can think critically and evolve."
John Nicklow, president of the University of New Orleans
Delgado Community College
Delgado Community College’s Maritime and Industrial Training Center in New Orleans East is a little different than some of these other programs in that it’s training students already in the workforce.
The center is about 30 years old and has developed as a business entity partnering with companies in oil and gas, energy, and the maritime industries to provide a variety of certifications required by those companies sometimes on an annual or biannual basis.
Every year hundreds of workers come to the center to receive a variety of certifications, including Coast Guard-approved radar and navigational training, firefighting and safety training during industrial fires.
“We train radar observers, pilots, captains, teach Coast Guard courses and even emergency medical care providers,” said Regina Radosta, the site facilitator.
In 2013, at the height of the oil and gas boom, the program certified 10,000 students from all over the world.
The subsequent downturn — which led to the elimination of more than 440,000 oil and gas jobs worldwide by the end of 2016, according to Houston-based consulting firm Graves & Co. — also impacted the training center at Delgado. In 2015, student numbers dropped to 5,000 as companies cut costs, according to the director of the center, Rick Schwab.
The center responded to the downturn by offering certifications in less time and allowing mid-career workers to come and get recertified.
“We are trying to be proactive by adapting what we offer, said Schwab. “We have diversified and started to offer classes for workers that need to be recertified so that they can keep their licenses current.”
A positive sign for both oil and gas, related industries and the center is that Delgado has started seeing entry-level employees in their classes once again.
“Companies are hiring again,” said Schwab.
Colleges Expand to Fill Workforce Demands
Delgado’s 45,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center is planned to open in Avondale and will serve 3,000 students in programs such as marine engineering, transportation and logistics.
Central Louisiana Technical Community College is getting a new $21.4 million, 50,000-square-foot campus with laboratories and a new library.
Baton Rouge Community College opened a new 20,000 square foot Collision Repair Training Technology center as a partnership with All Star Automotive in March.