By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
The Louisiana Watershed Initiative has launched a new workforce development program focused on disaster recovery and mitigation professions, with the first phase focused on heavy equipment operators.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the Louisiana Watershed Initiative is coordinating with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and Louisiana Economic Development (LED) to launch the PRO Louisiana program for “professional resilience occupations.”
The program utilizes federal money for occupational training courses aimed at the state’s flood recovery and resilience efforts. The goal is to develop a skilled workforce that can support flood risk reduction projects and build Louisiana’s defense against future natural disasters, Edwards said in a statement.
“We’ve awarded more than $440 million in federal funds to flood mitigation projects statewide that will break ground over the next few years, which means we need trained resilience professionals to support these efforts now more than ever,” Edwards said. “PRO Louisiana highlights the Louisiana Watershed Initiative’s comprehensive approach to flood risk reduction. Going beyond funding mitigation projects throughout the state, we’re starting to prepare a skilled workforce to deliver those projects by filling needed jobs in disaster resilience.”
A 2018 labor market analysis by LED and the Louisiana Workforce Commission pointed to the need for heavy equipment operators that are critical for flood resilience work in Louisiana and the initial courses for the PRO Louisiana program focus on that occupation. The program is expected to expand with additional courses in the future, such as flood risk analysis and resilient construction methods for builders and contractors.
Six colleges will offer the program during the spring and summer this year: Baton Rouge Community College, Central Louisiana Technical Community College, Louisiana Delta Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, Northwest Louisiana Community College and South Louisiana Community College.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative to provide heavy equipment operator training courses through PRO Louisiana, which will benefit the futures of our students and of our state,” said Monty Sullivan, president of Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS). “Demand for heavy equipment operators is on the rise as our communities recover from previous disasters and prepare for the growing risks of future ones. PRO Louisiana courses will provide the training and skills students need to secure essential, well-paid jobs with a higher purpose: safeguarding our state.”
LED Secretary Don Pierson also pointed to the program’s benefits for students and the state.
“Louisiana has the best workforce development training programs in the country, and higher education partnerships that deliver customized training are a big reason why,” Pierson said. “By equipping students to perform jobs that support resilience work, PRO Louisiana strengthens our economy in a way that literally rebuilds our state. LED is proud to partner with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to capitalize on these federal funds and fill the talent pipeline for a growing job sector.”
More information about eligibility for tuition assistance, courses and application instructions are available on the LCTCS website.