Louisiana Redirects Workforce Investments toward Emerging Industries

July 02, 2008

The Louisiana State Legislature recently approved several bills as part of a comprehensive package designed to revamp the state’s workforce development programs to focus on job training in emerging industries to ensure these fields have a highly qualified labor pool in the coming years.
 
The workforce reform package is centered on the creation of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, which will replace the state’s Department of Labor. The new commission will oversee the entire workforce development system and is charged with integrating workforce development initiatives through educational and training programs, with the purpose of developing a highly skilled workforce. A Workforce Investment Council also will be established to set workforce training priorities based on input from business leaders.
 
With an estimated 100,000 job vacancies across the state, lawmakers also passed legislation aimed at helping companies fill current workforce needs. HB 1018 establishes the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Workforce Training Rapid Response Fund and dedicates $10 million annually to supplement the cost of high-demand workforce training programs at community and technical colleges. The type of training programs to receive funding will be determined by market demand and economic and employment projections, according to the governor’s office.
 
The passage of these bills will help achieve the goals in the Louisiana: Vision 20/20 strategic plan, recommended by Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier this year (see the March 5, 2008 issue of the Digest). The approved budget for fiscal year 2008-09 includes several proposals championed by the governor for the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, including:

  • $3 million to launch the Louisiana Fast Start Program to produce turnkey workforce solutions for new business opportunities or expansions of existing businesses;
  • $2.5 million for a State Economic Competitiveness Group to focus on economic development strategy and planning by benchmarking state policies against competing states to identify gaps; and,
  • $400,000 to launch the Business Retention and Expansion Program to cultivate Louisiana’s existing businesses by aggressively pursuing business retention and expansion prospects.

Another $4.5 million is included for the Department of Education to expand career and technical educational opportunities, such as dual enrollment.
 
Lawmakers also supported the governor’s recommendation to provide $8 million in one-time funding for endowed chairs and professorships for Louisiana universities. The approved capital construction budget provides $16 million for a new Pennington Biomedical Center clinical research facility in East Baton Rouge.
 
A bill to allow the use of taxpayer dollars in support of embryonic stem cell research was struck down by lawmakers. HB 370 does not, however, restrict funding for research on stem-cell lines that existed before the August 2001 federal ban. The governor has until July 8 to act on the legislation.
 
The FY 2008-09 operating budget as approved by the legislature is available at: http://www.legis.state.la.us/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=500043

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