On Tuesday, Jan. 21, Gov. Bobby Jindal joined leaders from higher education systems across Louisiana to announce a funding increase of $141.5 million for higher education institutions for the next fiscal year. The funding hike represents a 6.66 percent increase over the budget for the current fiscal year. This funding includes a new higher education workforce incentive initiative of $40 million that will better prepare Louisiana students to compete in the new global economy.
The money in the incentive fund will be made available to state research institutions that produce nationally recognized commercial research and to state colleges and universities that partner with private industry to produce graduates with high-demand degrees and certificates, and enable them to link their coursework to industry needs and projected workforce demands.
Jindal said, “Our higher education institutions have done an incredible job over the past six years instituting a number of reforms to help more of our students graduate. These results are a testament to the incredible work of our faculty and students at schools across Louisiana. The reforms are working, but it’s time to redouble our efforts. We are in the midst of an economic renaissance in Louisiana. Since 2008, we have announced economic development wins that are resulting in more than 80,000 new jobs and more than $50 billion in private capital investment. Because of these job wins, more people are employed than ever before in Louisiana.
“Tens of thousands of jobs are now in the pipeline that must be filled, and our next challenge is to ensure we have the skilled workforce to fill these jobs of the future. Economists have recently said they have never seen an industrial expansion like the one under way in Louisiana, but have also warned that we must do a better job training skilled workers that will be needed to fill the demand for jobs at the major industrial and high tech projects coming to Louisiana. That’s why our top priority must be making sure we have the resources to prepare our students and train them for the jobs of the future.
“In order to help meet this goal, our budget for the next fiscal year will increase state general funding for higher education and increase total higher education funding by $141.5 million – a 6.66 percent increase over last year. This funding includes a new higher education workforce incentive initiative of $40 million that will better prepare Louisiana students to compete in the new global economy.
“A few months ago I sat down with our higher education leaders and said we have brought thousands of jobs to Louisiana. If you had new money, how would you reinvest it to make sure we have the qualified workforce to take those jobs? The leaders of our higher education institutions came up with an innovative plan. The fund will strengthen the critical linkage between college coursework and employment needs in our state.”
LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander said, “We appreciate the governor supporting the investment plan that will ultimately assist us in helping to address the state’s increasing workforce and innovation needs. We want to be an active partner in the future economic development and prosperity of Louisiana.”
President of the University of Louisiana System Sandra Woodley said, “In the University of Louisiana System, there is a deep sense of responsibility and urgency to increase the pace at our nine universities to meet growing workforce demands and to achieve national competitiveness. We are greatly appreciative of Gov. Jindal’s support of the WISE plan and are committed to leveraging these new dollars, engaging in unprecedented collaboration across higher education systems, and enhancing our partnerships with business and industry to drive economic development.”
President of the Southern University System Ron Mason said, “The fund promises to invest in the enhancement of Southern University System’s high demand programs, which is an investment on our future success.”
President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System Joe May said, “Today’s announcement by Gov. Jindal reaffirms his commitment to advancing Louisiana to the forefront of economic development, building strong communities, and shaping a higher education landscape where students will compete locally, nationally, and globally. Specifically, community and technical colleges will continue to meet the needs of students and business and industry by training citizens in high demand programs that lead to well-paying jobs. The work of the administration, LED, and the Workforce Commission to spearhead the state’s economic growth has been nothing short of amazing. Today is the result of collaboration and doing what is in the best interest of the state and our citizens will be the benefactors.”
Board of Regents Chairman Clinton Rasberry said, “The Board of Regents recognizes the critical role that higher education plays in economic development in our state. To ensure that Louisiana remains preeminent in workforce development, all entities have collaborated to achieve unprecedented success. We are grateful to Gov. Jindal and his team for working with the Regents and all of our higher education systems for the development of the WISE plan. This initiative will help our universities prepare individuals to meet the evolving demand for skilled labor.”
The new incentive fund will be called the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund – or WISE Fund. The funds will be made available to state research institutions that produce nationally recognized commercial research and to state colleges and universities that produce graduates with 4 and 5 STAR job ready degrees.
This performance based formula rewards and incentivizes the degrees that occupational forecasting and industry have shown are the most employable and the most in demand. To receive these funds, institutions will have to partner with private industry by recruiting at least a 20 percent private match in cash or in kind, such as technology and equipment.
Each institution will present a business plan that will demonstrate how the funds will be invested to reach the number of degrees we need as a state to fill the jobs we have now and in the next few years. And every year, each institution will be held accountable for reaching their goals to produce those degrees. Using data-driven predictive modeling with actual numbers from business and industry, experts were able to figure out how to predict how many and what level of degrees needed to meet workforce demands.
Jindal said this collaboration between Louisiana Economic Development, or LED; the Louisiana Workforce Commission; and the leaders of higher education has created a targeted investment strategy that spends dollars on the degrees needed to for the jobs coming to Louisiana.
These partnerships are already in the work at Louisiana’s colleges and universities. IBM has entered into a partnership with the LSU College of Engineering. As part of IBM’s project in downtown Baton Rouge, LSU committed to triple its computer science graduates in five years, which will place the LSU Computer Science program in the top 10-15 nationally for the number of B.S. degrees in computer science awarded nationally. The college will also expand its computer science programs and curriculum innovation, as LSU students will benefit from internship opportunities and more jobs upon graduation, keeping the best and brightest in the state.
In the UL System, LED recently partnered with UNO and GE Capital for the creation of the GE Capital’s Software Engineering Apprenticeship program. By the end of 2015, GE Capital plans to hire 40 UNO students enrolled in the computer science program in apprentice positions. SWEAP provides students at UNO with specialized training, experience and mentorship opportunities which will set them apart from other graduates.
Bossier Parish Community College recently received a $750,000 investment from EnCana Oil & Gas and Shell E&P to create an Oil & Gas Production Technology program. In New Orleans, Delgado partnered with 45 regional manufacturing and construction firms such as Laitram, Cornerstone, Shell and Bollinger, in addition to UNO, Southeastern and Nicholls, to produce 1,500 qualified graduates over four years for the booming manufacturing sector.
Southern University recently partnered with Genesis Energy to create a $100,000 scholarship fund, invest $25,000 in Southern’s Civil and Engineering labs, and help Southern ensure its curricula were aligned with the workforce needs of Genesis, among other things.