Louisiana State University of Alexandria and Louisiana Eye & Laser
Louisiana State University of Alexandria partnered with Louisiana Eye & Laser Center (formerly Alexandria Eye and Laser) to develop the Optometric & Optical Technician Training Program, a first-of-its-kind program for Central Louisiana.
The partners wrote their grant proposal and developed the program curriculum together, and began teaching the first course to 22 participants in June 2015. Classes were offered on nine Saturdays at the LSUA Allied Health Center in downtown Alexandria, followed by two months of clinical activities, where students were exposed to all facets of the field at the offices of Louisiana Eye and Laser.
LSUA and Louisiana Eye & Laser hoped to fill 20 slots. To their surprise, 78 people applied. Rapides Business and Career Solutions helped screen the candidates, making sure each one scored Silver or higher on the WorkKeys Assessment and passed a drug screen. In all, 22 students were accepted with 19 receiving certificates for completing the entire program.
“The goal and purpose of the grant was to allow someone to come in at a different level than they would normally come in into a position. It was not set up for incumbent or current employees. We were already working with those people doing on-the-job training,” said Lafe Jones, CEO and Administrator at Louisiana Eye & Laser.
Louisiana Eye & Laser staff with LSUA Interim Chancellor Haywood Joiner
“Obviously we were motivated to be a partner because we have grown so much over the last 10 years and project even more growth for our business. So it benefits us to have an ongoing pool of folks who want to come into this career and who have received the basic training,” he said. “The other benefit for us is by being involved as instructors and working with them during the clinicals, by the time they go through their clinicals we really know who we would like to have on board to come work with us, so that’s a great advantage for us as well as for the applicants.”
Program graduates earn certificates that make them eligible to work at other eye clinics. “They will have completed a training program, and no matter where they go in the state and I dare say outside of the state where there is a need for an ophthalmic tech, they have the training in order to apply for those jobs,” said Haywood Joiner, LSUA’s Interim Chancellor and Chair of the Department of Allied Health.
Joiner said the Workforce Opportunity Grant positions LSUA to offer the program in the future. “This is something that could enhance workforce statewide. There are eye clinics that are looking for trained technicians all over the state of Louisiana so it would be an opportunity to provide a service that certainly is not available in Central Louisiana on an ongoing basis, and in the form that we did the program, not available anywhere in the state of Louisiana,” he said. “As the population ages, eyes become a problem and so there’s always going to be that need for ophthalmic technicians.”