Date:July 1, 2008
Contact:Public Relations @ (225) 342-3035

Labor, partner agencies discuss workforce development reform

LAFAYETTE - Louisiana Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Tia Edwards was joined today by partner agency representatives and stakeholders at Louisiana Technical College in Lafayette to discuss workforce reform legislation and to announce initial plans to implement it.

The comprehensive workforce redesign measures, which transform the Department of Labor into the Louisiana Workforce Commission, received overwhelming legislative support as well as strong support from both business and labor.

"With this legislation we have been given the charge to integrate our workforce development system and provide much-needed solutions for businesses and job seekers in our state," Edwards said. "Our goal is a demand-driven system that will allow us to quickly respond to businesses’ critical workforce needs. For job seekers, we and our partner agencies will create better job opportunities and provide the training and education necessary to take advantage of those opportunities."

The measures call for:

(1) Integrating workforce development and social support programs across agencies to provide one-door service for businesses and job seekers.

(2) Strengthening the role of community and technical colleges in workforce development.

(3) Quickly improving our ability to address workforce shortages in high-demand occupations.

(4) Improving our capacity to respond to new business or expansion opportunities.

(5) Creating a demand-driven system that ties workforce development to business and industry needs.

(6) Expanding the workforce to help fill nearly 100,000 job vacancies that are going wanting today.

As the Workforce Commission, the agency will play a more meaningful role in supporting the state’s economic development activities. It also will continue to administer the unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems.

"By improving the alignment of workforce training and business needs, we can substantially improve our ability to attract and retain employers that will offer our citizens good-paying jobs and the potential for advancement," Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said. "Our prospects always look for a skilled labor pool. These reforms help improve our state’s competitiveness in a highly responsive, effective way that will benefit both citizens and businesses."

The legislation sets aside $4.6 million for implementation in the first year and establishes a $10 million workforce training rapid response fund to allow the Community and Technical College System to respond more effectively to urgent workforce opportunities and challenges, aimed primarily at meeting priority workforce needs.

The current La. Workforce Commission would be changed to the La. Workforce Investment Council and would be charged with forecasting job vacancies so that appropriate training opportunities can be developed to meet the demand.

The Legislature also approved resolutions requesting that the Board of Regents consider the jobs forecast and cost of related training programs, recruitment and equipment when funding the community and technical colleges.

In addition, the executive budget and state general fund budget, address two other important components of the workforce redesign package, $3 million for the Department of Economic Development’s Fast Start Program and $4.5 million for the Department of Education to expand career and technical education opportunities for public school students. The Fast Start Program is aimed at producing turnkey workforce solutions for specific new business opportunities or expansions of existing Louisiana businesses.

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