Lafourche career center to grow students’ skills

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Land that grew sugarcane for more than 80 years will now help students grow and find their career path with the construction of Lafourche Parish’s new Career Magnet Center.

An official groundbreaking ceremony was held on Friday for the 60,000-square-foot, $15.9 million facility where high school juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to engage in more hands-on learning.

With the project starting from the ground up, completion of the Career Magnet Center is set for April 2015 with classes beginning August 2015. 

Career and Technical Coordinator Jennifer Plaisance said the center would give students an idea of what they can accomplish outside of high school and give them insight to college-level courses.     

“We’re hoping to give students some entrance into what college can offer and they can also pick up a skill and possibly work part time while going to college,” Plaisance said. 

The vocational courses offered at the Career Magnet Center were developed with information from the Louisiana Workforce Commission, which detailed what jobs were prevalent in the area, along with student surveys. 

“We’re looking at student demand (for courses) and the employability of our students,” Plaisance said. 

Current 10th graders in Lafourche Parish are slated as the first senior class to attend the center and current ninth graders will be the first junior class.

The center will offer a variety of courses in fields such as agriculture, automotive technology, allied health sciences, cosmetology, culinary, electricity, horticulture, marine operations, plumbing, student teaching and welding.  There will also be advanced placement courses such as calculus, chemistry, English 4 and physics. 

The center is divided into two buildings – one for lab courses such as welding, while the other building will house mainly classrooms for courses such as cosmetology. 

Students can enroll at the Career Magnet Center for approximately two hours in the morning or afternoon.  The remainder of their day would be spent at their respective high schools. 

Plaisance hopes to hire instructors who work or have retired in their respective fields to teach students what is expected in the industry. 

By hiring instructors who work for local businesses, the center also contains the possibility to get students working in their field through internship programs, she added. 

“We’re also helping some of these employers to fill their job openings with local people,” Plaisance said. “We can keep students in this area and benefit our parishes.” 

Hugh Caffery is the fourth generation to own the 20 acres of land that was bought by the school board for $500,000 to build the Career Magnet Center.   

Caffery also attended a trade school for welding and went on to purse a degree in engineering.

Once completed, he said, the new facility would help build student’s character through skill. 

“For me it’s quite an honor to get this kind of upgrade in what we’re doing here. I see how important of a step this is for young people, who like me, didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do, but wanted to do more hands-on things,” he said.   

Plans for the Career Magnet Center have been in discussion among the Lafourche Parish School Board for more than five years. 

“It was a dream to have something done that can help the students of Lafourche, help workforce in our community and also build additional classes for advanced placement opportunities for our students,” Superintendent Jo Ann Matthews said at the groundbreaking ceremony. 

Members of the Lafourche Parish School District, along with Superintendent Jo Ann Matthews (center), participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Career Magnet Center last Friday in Lockport. The facility is scheduled for completion in April 2015, with enrollment beginning August 2015 for career and college prep courses.