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Building a 21st century workforce in SWLA

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Southwest Louisiana is on the map in the global economy. We have major companies based in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and soon Australia with manufacturing facilities located in our region employing thousands of high-skill, high-wage workers from local communities. The second wave of industrial expansion will soon begin and construction of more new petrochemical and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities is on the way.

The economic boom SW La. has experienced in the past five years leads the nation in many economic and workforce indictors.We are both excited by and grateful for our robust economy. However, there is an old adage that says “never rest on your laurels.”

In 2015, the SW La. Economic Development Alliance launched SWLA Vision 2040. This was a campaign to develop a 25-year vision for the SW La. region in the areas of quality of life, workforce development, and leadership development.

As part of the vision, the Alliance is focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) programs in the educational system of SW La. for developing a 21st century workforce.

Phillips 66 has funded a grant aimed at collecting an inventory of the current STEAM programs in every school from Pre-K through university graduate programs. Once the inventory is complete, these programs will be evaluated to see where they fit in to one of the STEAM educational pathways that prepare students for the world of work. The intended outcome is to locate gaps and align resources so students receive a seamless educational pathway from the time they begin school until they graduate and go to work.

The challenge for every community across the globe is to prepare future generations by providing them the foundational skills and education to keep up with the ever-increasing pace of change due to technology. Many of the more traditional jobs done by human beings involving repetitive tasks will rapidly be replaced by automation.

Do you use an ATM or on-line app for banking, selfcheck-out line at the grocery store, or kiosk in the fast food restaurant? These devices are replacing jobs that once were held by people. Where do the people who worked these jobs go?

The best jobs in the future will be working with information and data in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. The workplace is changing, the skills are changing, and the type of education needed is changing.

The Alliance applauds Phillips 66 for their vision in funding this grant that allows our educational leaders to make informed decisions on how and what to change in the system to keep pace with rapidly changing needs of the 21st century workforce.


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