|Healthy Communities - Economic Development |
The Rapides Foundation’s work as a healthcare organization extends beyond areas that are intrinsically health-related. Its Economic Development Initiative is based on the direct correlation between higher incomes and a healthier population. Healthy economies with low unemployment rates and higher wage jobs provide people with the means to purchase medical insurance, make better healthcare choices and live healthier lifestyles.
Recognizing workforce as the driver for economic development and income growth, the Foundation in 2012 supported the Cenla Work Ready Network, a program designed to link education and workforce development efforts and align them with regional economic needs. A Workforce Summit introduced the business and education communities to best practices in using three components of the Cenla Work Ready Network: ACT’s Career Ready 101, the WorkKeys assessment and the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). The Foundation’s 2012 Video Challenge focused on the importance of students getting training and skills to prepare for a career after high school. Plainview High School won the top prize.
Almost 3,500 students were enrolled in Career Ready 101, with several hundred students achieving the NCRC in 2012. The Foundation awarded a grant to the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) for ACT job profiling for several area employers. The job profiles are correlated to a work-ready certificate that employers can use in their hiring process.
In partnership with the Central Louisiana Technical Community College, the nine school districts and The Orchard Foundation, the Foundation funded and provided support for Career Compass of Louisiana in high schools throughout the region. Career Compass provides college and career coaching for students to be successful beyond high school.
The Foundation’s interest in improving the economic environment also includes business startups and expansions. The Foundation funds CLEDA to implement an entrepreneurial development program called the Business Acceleration System because research shows that most jobs created in the United States come from small business. BAS provided coaching services to more than 120 clients and classes to more than 500 participants in 2012.
The Foundation believes there has to be a broader, overarching effort at improving business culture and environment, and provides a grant to CLEDA to support that objective. A focus of CLEDA is to support business retention and expansion, and those efforts have resulted in major new business investments in Central Louisiana.