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|West explains NOVA's mission|
Providing quality job training for local residents not only helps people personally, but it aids the community economically.
That's the goal of the new workforce development group called NOVA, which stands for New Opportunities Vision Achievement.
Paul West, formerly the CEO at Living Well Foundation, recently took over the reigns of NOVA as its new executive director. He accepted that position in late November.
NOVA already has 17 people from northeast Louisiana signed up for job training services. However, NOVA wants many more to take advantage of the training initiatives which would provide "living wage jobs with benefits and a career path."
NOVA is a non-profit organization that was formed from efforts begun in 2006 to address workforce needs in northeast Louisiana. The Monroe City Council recently appropriated $100,000 for NOVA to begin operations.
"They were a tremendous help with funds that we needed to get started," West said of Monroe's appropriation.
He said NOVA continues to look for funding opportunities to continue offering its services to northeast Louisiana residents.
According to its mission statement, NOVA serves "to connect the needs of employers, with educational and training entities and local residents who are looking for a career path leading to a living wage job and benefits."
The main project NOVA is working on currently involves the collaboration among Louisiana Delta Community College and local employers for a new Certified Manufacturing Specialist training program. That training program began in mid-January. NOVA recruited and enrolled 17 participants in the CMS training program, which was funded by the Rapid Response Fund from the governor's office.
Participants can obtain a job-ready certification in the area of manufacturing in as little as five months.
"We're trying to take an individual to the next level," West said. "Sometimes they may be unemployed or underemployed. We're the matchmaker - we're trying to connect the employer, the training and learning institutions, and the actual participant."
Any northeast Louisiana resident can participate in NOVA as long as they are 18 or older and are living at less than 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. They also are required to have a high school diploma or GED.
"Many of these people are underemployed and they may be struggling to make ends meet, and they need a career path," West explained. "That's what we do. That's the neat thing about NOVA.
"We have what I call a safety neat - organizations or individuals who will sponsor a person. Everyone who comes into our program has to be referred and have a letter of support from someone saying they are willing to sponsor them through this timeframe. We also have mentoring and case managing, so from those three points, we hopefully can ensure the success of an individual coming through the training."
According to economic development officials, a lack of a qualified workforce is the No. 1 reason given by companies for not locating in Louisiana.
"We hear this echoed a lot that we don't have an adequate pool of trained people to supply the needs of our employers, whether it's a new business or industry coming in or existing businesses," West continued. "I think that's improving and NOVA wants to be that organization out there that can put this together. We want to be the go-to organization out there that can put these pieces of the puzzle together so we have a prepared workforce."
He said northeast Louisiana has plenty of resources for workforce development with the universities, technical and community colleges and numerous organizations. He said those entities have partnered with NOVA to improve the region's workforce and provide a better quality of life for its residents.
"With all of us working together, hopefully we all will see a better trained, better equipped workforce," West added.
For more information about NOVA and the services it offers, call 362-3395.