GNOu Brings Together Industry Professionals And Students

GNO, Inc’s award-winning, industry-driven, workforce development initiative

photos provided by gno, inc.

Through a collection of initiatives based on meaningful partnerships, Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.), is working to build a region brimming with opportunities. One of those initiatives is GNOu, a workforce development program that benefits students, professionals and the overall community of Southeast Louisiana. The program connects regional industries and higher education institutions to one another and develops demand-driven programming within schools.

“It’s ensuring that GNO, Inc. is leveraging the full capacity of our two-year and four-year schools in the region to meet the needs of businesses and industries, from a workforce perspective,” says Lacy McManus, the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for GNO, Inc.

“Workforce development is a key concern of our regional employers,” says McManus. “Frankly, it is a massive issue and concern across the country right now.”

Industries have automated many of their processes and added new technologies, so the type of employee companies need has changed dramatically. As a result, economic development organizations have become more purposeful about tackling workforce development efforts.
GNOu supports high schools in by providing research, resources and industry connections. They collaborate with nonprofit partners by illuminating the high-wage and high-growth career pathways within the region.

“We’re able to provide a light in terms of where they should be aligning their programming and where they should be focusing,” McManus says. “I say often that we have 12 higher education institutions here in the Greater New Orleans region. That includes two-year and four-year schools, public and private schools, and HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities).

“With all of that capacity, we shouldn’t have workforce challenges. Yet, we do. We hear from employers all the time that they can’t find the talent for their high-wage, high-growth jobs.”

Examining the higher education landscape and identifying programs that would help students succeed in the workforce became GNOu’s mission — and local colleges and universities were eager to collaborate.

“They recognize that their students need to be prepared for life after college,” McManus says. “They want their students to be workforce ready.”

To further their mission, GNO, Inc. established WorkNOLA, a website featuring professional employment listings throughout Greater New Orleans.

The job platform ensures that the programs being developed in schools are aligning with high-wage, high-growth career pathways. Also, if GNO, Inc. learns of new industry demands, or of a company’s specific need, they can scan WorkNOLA for qualified candidates.

John Nicklow, President of University of New Orleans (UNO), believes his career-focused students have already benefitted from the website.
“Students, or somebody looking to return to the workforce or change fields, can go there and get an idea of what jobs they could get with that degree,” he says. “A student is more likely to complete a degree if there are more accurate expectations.”

Within the past five years, 82 percent of UNO graduates have remained and worked in metro New Orleans, says Nicklow.

“Part of that is because we educate so many students from the local area, but also because if the students that come here get hooked into a good apprenticeship program or an internship program, they are more likely to stay and contribute to the economy,” he explains.

Additionally, the state’s Compete Louisiana program (competela.org), powered by universities across the state, helps students complete an unfinished degree. The program includes a mix of online degree programs and convenient class structures meant for Louisiana residents who already have some college credits.

As for GNOu, McManus wants to remain ready and able to work with industry partners, while effectively servicing the Greater New Orleans area through the program’s higher education connections.

She would also like to grow GNOu’s impact in both “breadth and depth,” by expanding its portfolio of projects and ensuring that her team is reaching individual students and connecting them to employers.

“Those are the big overarching goals moving forward,” she says. “New opportunities present themselves with great frequency. So how we get to those goals and where we land is still a little bit of a moving target, but thus far, the momentum that we’ve been generating over the last few months is incredibly promising.”


Get to Know
Lacy McManus

Given her business acumen and keen understanding of economic development, it may come as a surprise to learn that Lacy McManus is also an experienced journalist. Before earning her MA in global communication from the American University of Paris and her MBA from Tulane University, respectively, she earned a BA in journalism from The University of Georgia. “I’m one of those rare people who can honestly say, ‘I use my degrees and my educational background every single day,’” says McManus, who has also served as editor of Lagniappe, a quarterly magazine published by the Junior League of New Orleans and Renaissance Publishing. “I’m constantly writing and communicating,” she says. “From the MBA perspective, I’m managing a diverse portfolio of projects, ensuring that we are producing ROI (return on investment), that we’re aligned with budgets, and that we’re in compliance with our grants and funding streams.” McManus once lived in India, where she promoted sustainable development in the fashion industry, and also spent time in Paris, where she wrote for Women’s Wear Daily. When McManus returned to Louisiana, she realized that she had always “been interested in cities and places, and what made communities work or not work.” She nabbed a Baton Rouge-based job for a nonprofit called The Center for Planning Excellence and oversaw a campaign that examined affordable housing, transportation and workforce development solutions. But when an opportunity opened in New Orleans at GNO, Inc., McManus went for it. More than six years later, she continues to thrive — personally and professionally — with the organization. McManus finds gratification discovering firsthand how students and GNOu participants have benefitted from the organization’s efforts. Another plus? She gets to work with “an outstanding group of people.” “The GNO, Inc. team is absolutely magical,” says McManus. “We are changing our community on a regular basis. Many days, I feel like Sisyphus. I’m just pushing that rock up the mountain only to have it roll back down. But there are some days when that rock goes over the hill, and that’s magic.”