Louisiana retraining unemployed workers amid virus outbreak
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is on track to retrain 5,000 workers who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic for other skilled positions by April, according to the state community college and technical system.
The effort from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System is called “ Reboot Your Career.” The training is being offered at all 12 of the state’s community and technical colleges, Southern University in Shreveport and LSU-Eunice.
“The purpose of this was to reskill those who are currently unemployed by COVID into jobs that are hiring in the current economy and will be hiring in the long term,” said Camille Conaway, senior vice president for policy and industry partnerships at the community college system.
The Advocate reports the program seeks to qualify people for jobs mostly in 12 weeks or less. Conaway said the path to new jobs represents “something that is working” in the midst of widespread hardship.
Louisiana is paying for the program with $10 million in federal coronavirus aid approved by Congress. Gov. John Bel Edwards designated the money for the job training effort from $50 million in discretionary education dollars that were part of the legislation.
Conaway and Monty Sullivan, president of community and technical college system, outlined the program to lawmakers Thursday. Conaway said 700 workers were retrained in the first three months after the retraining program began in September. and that will soon reach 1,500.
“The demand is huge,” she said.
Sullivan said: “We realize we are not touching everyone. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the state who need exactly what we are talking about here.”
Schools are reimbursed $1,500 for each student who earns a credential under the program. Colleges are required to keep track of where students land jobs and their salaries. Tuition is supposed to be as little as $10 or $20 per student, depending which program is pursued.
The program worked with employers to define which jobs are in high demand in different regions of the state. Five industries emerged: health care, transportation and logistics, information technology, manufacturing and construction. A total of 50 credentials are offered. Jobs in the training program include nursing assistant, web developer, machinist and carpenter.
For example, Conaway said construction needs are heavy in southwest Louisiana after hurricanes Laura and Delta. She said learning to operate a forklift requires one day of training and pays $20 per hour, and those classes are typically filled to capacity in the Lake Charles area.
Lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee praised the training work.
“This is incredibly well spent,” said Sen. Beth Mizell, a Franklinton Republican. “How many layers of positive, life changing are going to happen from this.”
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