Parish training program is doing the job

15 of 18 members of first class secured jobs with Ochsner

With an eye on creating more opportunity for its residents to find employment, St. Charles Parish’s Workforce Investment Act has already paid dividends, and those behind the program say more success is on the way in 2018.

The program is comprised of three phases, each offering specific instruction in a different field.

The first is the parish’s first-ever certified medical assistance training program, which is being held in conjunction with Ochsner Healthcare Systems and the St. Charles Parish Adult Education Department. The first class saw all 18 of its participants successfully graduate, with 15 of those already securing employment with Ochsner.

Tommy Scott, director of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), said the success of that phase has emboldened the commission to confidently push forward in the next two phases, and also to emulate the initial medical training program in early 2018 with East Jefferson General Hospital.

The second phase implements a partnership with Entergy and Delgado to create the parish’s first-ever certified utility lineman training program, which is also set to begin in early 2018.

The third phase entails training for film making, involving a partnership with the New Orleans Visual Arts Center (NOVAC) and its community-based production internship program.

The biggest difference in this workforce training program and ones done in the past, Scott said, is that this one is fueled by a direct bridge from the program to employers, who have detailed exactly what they’re looking for in hiring future employees.

“We’ve honestly had workforce programs for many years, but we’ve been hitting and missing,” Scott said. “Some people get jobs, some don’t. So we decided to brainstorm and see if we could come up with a better way.

“(This program) creates a process where we reach out to employers and work hand in hand with them so we can create a training for a specified skill set and help trainees develop exactly the skills those employers are looking for. We go out, speak with the employers and ask what they’re looking for in an ideal employee. Having them on board is the big difference.”

Scott said he believes that direct link to potential employers has created additional motivation for those undergoing training.

“I think having that input gives them a little push to be more dedicated, try a little harder and take it seriously, versus a generalized thing where you aren’t sure what your next step is,” Scott said.

The medical training course spanned 16 weeks of classroom work and four weeks of clinicals, taking place at Ochsner locations throughout the metro New Orleans area. Ochsner representatives helped instruct the course, for example an Ochsner Human Resources representative helped train program participants for the interview process.

“It made things tangible for the trainees. They could see this was something they could really benefit from,” Scott said.

The utility lineman training, Scott said, should yield similar opportunities in a field where there is a need.

“Those poles are changed out after every hurricane season,” Scott said. “As you can imagine, in Louisiana there’s a bit of demand for that (skillset).”

The film making training through NOVAC is another example of preparing trainees for a field with large demand locally.

“It deals with all the aspects of film making and production,” Scott said. “From lighting, cameramen, what happens behind the scenes … as with the tax credits Louisiana gives the film industry. There’s a lot of production going on here, including in the River Parishes. It gives them a chance to learn from the ground up and become part of a large industry making a huge impact in Louisiana.”

Scott said the formula is one he and his colleagues believe in, and believers are growing at the state level as well, as he said it is providing more funding in order to bring more training opportunities to the River Parishes.

“We’ve had a lot of support at the state level and the local level, from Parish President (Larry) Cochran and Billy Raymond (St. Charles Parish Chief Administrative Officer) to Dwayne LaGrange (St. Charles Parish Director of Community Services) and the parish council,” Scott said. “They deserve big thanks for making this possible.”

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