Ongoing grants from The Rapides Foundation provide more technical training in Cenla
The Rapides Foundation in early 2015 launched a grant opportunity designed to support training and education for in-demand, above-median income occupations in Central Louisiana. Workforce Opportunity Grants help residents advance their careers, expand the pool of qualified employees for local employers and provide area colleges with the resources to continue offering career-training programs to reach even more students.
A part of its Economic Development Initiative, the Foundation’s Workforce Opportunity Grant is an ongoing grant opportunity that promotes partnerships between Central Louisiana businesses and accredited public, postsecondary institutions from throughout the state. The purpose is to support training programs for higher-income occupations for which there is demonstrated, unmet employer demand in the nine-parish area served by the Foundation.
“The Workforce Opportunity Grant program supports our Economic Development Initiative, which seeks to raise the standard of living by improving the region’s capacity to produce higher-wage jobs,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “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.”
The Foundation is partnering with the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) to implement this grant opportunity. So far, the Foundation awarded three Workforce Opportunity Grants, opening the door for certifications in optometric and optical technician, commercial driving and logging, and variable refrigerant flow system technology.
The Central Louisiana Technical Community College partnered with RoyOMartin to provide Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and Timber Harvesting Equipment Operator training programs for the timber industry. CLTCC also partnered on another grant with ACA Corporation to bring HVAC/Variable Refrigerant Flow Systems training to Central Louisiana. Louisiana State University of Alexandria and Louisiana Eye & Laser partnered to develop the Optometric & Optical Technician Training Program.
“In all three instances, local employers demonstrated a need for technical training for their current employees and future hires, and they worked with local colleges to find a way to bring these trainings to Central Louisiana,” Rosier said.
Because Workforce Opportunity Grant funds can be used to train instructors, develop curriculum and purchase training equipment, postsecondary institution partners are poised to continue providing these new educational opportunities even after the grant cycle is complete.
“These aren’t incidental opportunities. We can offer these programs as long as the demand is there,” said CLTCC Chancellor Jimmy Sawtelle. “CDL, which we did not offer a year and a half ago, we are now offering full-time at one campus and looking to expand and make a mobile offering. And our ACA opportunity initiative is so leading edge that I believe other HVAC companies will get involved and want it for their companies. We’re really trying to get as many folks trained at CLTCC and change the quality of life for the better in Central Louisiana.”
The Workforce Opportunity Grant encourages strong partnerships between postsecondary institutions, the workforce system, employers and industry groups.
Haywood Joiner, LSUA's Interim Chancellor and chair of LSUA’s Department of Allied Health, described how LSUA formed its partnership with Louisiana Eye and Laser. “Central Louisiana had a need for ophthalmic technicians. Since we had the academic side of what was needed and they had the clinical side of what was needed, it was a natural partnership for us to team up. Fortunately we were able to get the grant and to provide that training, which greatly benefited the workforce in this area.”
The technical trainings that have been developed and provided as a result of these Workforce Opportunity Grants are allowing local residents the opportunity to receive advanced education and certifications that will increase their pay and make them more desirable to potential employers. Employers say they appreciate the bigger pool of qualified, trained employees.
Ramon Milano, a CDL instructor at CLTCC, said recruiters stop by the college often. “They will come in and talk about their company and the perks, what they can expect when they get there, what kind of money they will be making and what kind of benefits they have. The average salary is $38,000 for the first year and increases every year you get under your belt,” he said.
Sawtelle said colleges are excited about the Workforce Opportunity Grant.
“We want to thank The Rapides Foundation for creating opportunities where our citizens who need education and training receive it, and companies who need qualified workers receive it by virtue of the support and generosity of The Rapides Foundation,” he said. “Colleges don’t have needs, but citizens have needs and industry has needs, and The Rapides Foundation helps us to create a happy ending for those looking for high-wage demand jobs and companies who want to hire those who are skilled for those jobs.”
WORKFORCE OPPORTUNITY GRANT SPOTLIGHTS
Central Louisiana Technical Community College and ACA Corporation
CLTCC Instructor Bruce Twigg
The HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry is experiencing a growth in Variant Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Systems, which are relatively new, efficient heating and cooling systems. As more homes and office buildings are being built with VRF systems, the industry is in need for trained installers and service technicians. For this reason, ACA Corporation and CLTCC partnered to bring VRF systems training to Central Louisiana. “Our company’s thoughts were, let’s partner with the technical college and have a training center established in Alexandria, not only for ACA employees but for the students of the technical college and for other companies in the area that may want this training,” said Robert Taylor, ACA’s General Manager. “When The Rapides Foundation opened up the grant opportunity, that was our low-hanging fruit for training.”
Central Louisiana Technical Community College and RoyOMartin
CLTCC Chancellor Jimmy Sawtelle with Instructor Ramon Milano
The Central Louisiana Technical Community College partnered with RoyOMartin to teach Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and Timber Harvesting Equipment Operator training programs for the timber industry. RoyOMartin approached CLTCC with an idea to provide both CDL and timber harvesting training in a unique effort to produce a “sustained fleet of individuals who can harvest and transport raw materials to our manufacturing facilities,” said Ray Peters, Vice President of Human Resources and Marketing at RoyOMartin. “Historically, you had Truck Drivers and you had Equipment Operators. What we would like to do is get to the point where one individual can do both the harvesting of the tree, and also the loading and delivery of that raw material. This was groundbreaking in many ways."
Louisiana State University of Alexandria and Louisiana Eye & Laser
Louisiana Eye & Laser staff with LSUA Interim Chancellor Haywood Joiner
Louisiana State University of Alexandria partnered with Louisiana Eye and 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 27 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.