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A Long Way From Grandpa's Plant

man adjusts settings on an equipment panel

The skills gap is defined as "an excess demand for skills with an insufficient supply of skilled talent". According to Fred Dedrick, the Executive Director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS), “In the American south, where advanced manufacturing is a relatively recent growth industry, the skills gap is very real…” (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/economy/ask-the-experts-skills-jobs/16219/) Northeast Louisiana manufacturing companies are gearing up for the mass retirement of their “Baby Boomer” employees. These Baby Boomers possess decades of work experience and technical expertise. Unfortunately, the younger generations coming behind the Baby Boomers do not possess the needed technical skills to replace the retiring workforce. One of the best tools in attacking the skills gap is local business and industry partnering with the local education programs - both secondary and post-secondary. These industry-specific education programs should be a direct workforce pipeline to the needed employers. The most effective partnerships consist of secondary education, post-secondary education, business and industry contacts, local workforce development boards, and local economic development groups. These collaborative efforts will provide a clear path and strategy to address the local industry’s immediate and long term needs.

Louisiana Delta Community College Workforce Department formed a Manufacturing Advisory Committee. This Manufacturing Committee consisted of local manufacturing companies, workforce boards (81 and 83), economic development groups (NLEP, NELEA, Monroe Chamber of Commerce, and West Monroe West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce), and local school systems within our service area. Based upon multiple conversations with the entire committee and hundreds of individual meetings with the various partners, LDCC Workforce created a Manufacturing Certification program. LDCC’s program used Louisiana Economic Development (LED) FastStart’s Certification for Manufacturing (C4M) program as the base curriculum. The C4M program is focused on entry level manufacturing skills relevant to Louisiana businesses and was created so that the curriculum could be delivered at the high school and/or community and technical colleges, depending on instructor availability and expertise.

Entergy of Louisiana has donated funds for the development and growth of LDCC’s Manufacturing Certification program. Some of the donated funds were to be used specifically in the rural areas of Northeast Louisiana. LDCC then partnered with the Richland Parish School Board in an effort to bring these needed manufacturing-related technical skills to the junior and senior high school students. In the summer of 2017, LDCC began the “Entergy C4M Summer Institute” for fifteen Richland Parish high school students. The Monday-Thursday, six week summer program provided training which covered the first two courses of C4M - Introduction to Manufacturing and Tools and Equipment.  The training impacted these students so much that fourteen of the original fifteen students continued in the C4M program’s Automation course in the Fall of 2017. Due to spring sports, only twelve of the original fifteen continued in C4M’s Introduction to Fabrication, Process Technology, and Machining course in the Spring of 2018. In May 2018, nine of the original fifteen high school students graduated high school and the C4M program. Lamb Weston and Hydro, which are manufacturing companies in Richland Parish and also serve on LDCC’s Advisory Committee, have hired several LDCC C4M graduates. The success of the Entergy C4M Summer Institute was highlighted by LED and Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) as a model of how a total collaborative effort can impact individuals and a community while closing the skills gap. LDCC Workforce then took proactive steps to provide solutions for our local manufacturing partners and communities. 

Dean Baugh
Director: Workforce & Economic Development, LDCC