Our view: Returning nobility, integrity to workforce

The jobs are there. The Tri-parishes has enjoyed a record-low jobless rate for years – even when the rest of the nation was struggling with the economy, we were relatively impervious to the pain.

The training is here. Just ask Fletcher Technical Community College Chancellor Travis Lavigne. He’ll tell you that Fletcher is partnering with south Louisiana’s chief industries – oil and gas and marine technology – to offer hands-on learning opportunities with state-of-the-art equipment designed to put people to work upon successful completion of the programs. Similar efforts are helping shape maritime management training at Nicholls State University.

“It’s just a question of time now and getting students trained in a timely fashion to get them to work,” Lavigne told the Tri-Parish Times. “We’re blessed in this community to have so much work.”

A big piece of the puzzle, and a constant concern for companies seeking workers for their high-paying jobs, is finding a qualified labor force.

That’s where local business and industry is striving to change the current mindset among today’s youth.

“We have to bring nobility back to the workforce and integrity to the students,” South Central Industrial Association Executive Director Jane Arnette says.

In the wake of 9/11, America embraced police and firefighters. The public celebrated the nobility of those professions and hailed those who followed in the previous generations’ path.

Conversely, in the wake of the oil bust in the 1980s, families struggled to learn new trades when jobs that had paid well became scarce. The toll the oil bust took on the area still has some reluctant to suggest jobs in the industry to their offspring, Arnette says.

Conservative figures suggest 20 percent of this region’s high school graduates will go on to attend college. That leaves 80 percent looking for another option.

“We’re really making a full-force effort in recruiting, training, providing opportunities for apprentice programs where, within a few years after high school, they can be making top rates,” says Chris Bollinger of Bollinger Shipyards.

Through job fairs, on-site field trips and outreach programs in local schools, business and industry is attempting to impress upon the Tri-parishes’ future graduates that enviable salaries – and the training to obtain them – are available right here at home.

“We hope that somewhere in this marine industry, they come on board and see this as an attractive, respectable, highly-paid employment opportunity for their future,” Bollinger urges.

Let’s face it, this is an iPhone/Internet generation. Manual labor isn’t high on their “to do” list. But there’s no shame, as Arnette so aptly put it, in earning upward of $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 annually – much more than many college graduates.

Opportunities abound, it is up to this generation to cash in. Your future begins now. Are you ready?