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|Official: Technical colleges need $10 million|
To solve Louisiana's workforce problems, the state must invest in increasing student enrollment at technical and community colleges.
That's the opinion of Dr. Joe May, Louisiana Community and Technical College System president, who spoke at the West Monroe Convention Center Tuesday.
Currently, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System has 52,000 students, but May says the system needs around 160,000 students to meet the state's workforce needs.
May says many of Louisiana's businesses and industries are in dire need of skilled workers. LNG facilities in southwest Louisiana have thousands of positions they need to fill. Northrop Grumman also has thousands of positions available in Louisiana for skilled workers, May said.
To train more workers for the jobs, the system will have to improve its facilities and build new campuses to accommodate student growth, May said.
May says many of the system's facilities are outdated. Most were built in the 1970s for "a '70s economy and a '70s workforce."
The state Bond Commission already has approved $173 million in bond sales for the construction of new facilities and for renovation projects throughout the system.
The Louisiana Community and Technical College System is one of the fastest growing education systems in the state, according to May. It was recently ranked seven of the 50 fastest growing colleges in the nation.
However, one problem the system is facing is there are more people wanting to attend classes than the system can handle.
"If we don't get the money to handle growth, it will go back down," May said. "In order to sustain growth, you have to be paid for it and without the ability to grow, we're not going to have workers, and frankly, people will not be able to stay and live in the state. We'll continue to educate people only for them to leave for other states."
System officials are working with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to draft legislation to address a funding formula to maintain enrollment growth.
The state will be asked to pump $10 million into the system to accommodate future growth and to maintain at least 160,000 students.
"We have shown consistently that funding equates to growth, so imagine what a funding formula aligned with workforce needs and economic development priorities could accomplish for Louisiana," May said.
"This is important because it can meet the workforce needs of today, not five years from now, or 10 years from now, but today. We need to be at 160,000 students."
If legislation is approved to annually fund enrollment growth, May says the colleges must be held accountable. He said system officials will be required to track students as they go through the system, graduate and enter the workforce. They will have to show that money being spent on enrollment growth is ultimately increasing the state's workforce.