BATON ROUGE— Louisiana’s community and technical colleges are embarking on an aggressive, six-year plan.
It includes doubling the number of graduates and their total earnings, quadrupling the number of students they send to the state’s four-year schools and significantly increasing private dollars and partnerships with businesses.
“I don’t think it’s any secret to anyone that the biggest issue today is Louisiana’s workforce,” Louisiana Communityand Technical College System President Monty Sullivan told The Advocate Wednesday. “We take this challenge very seriously.”
The six-part plan, which the system has set out to meet by the year 2020, would have the state’s community and technical college system graduating 40,000 students a year and the annual earnings of its graduating class at $1.5 billion.
“We’re within striking distance of having our first billion-dollar earning class,” Sullivan said. “The impact is huge.”
If its goals are met, the system would send at least 10,000 students a year to Louisiana’s four-year universities — something Sullivan said would also strengthen those schools, and it would create at least 1,000 individual partnerships with private businesses throughout the state.
Under “Our Louisiana 2020,” which the system Board of Supervisors unanimously approved during a meeting Wednesday, the community and technical colleges also will place a stronger emphasis on jobs that the state has identified as “tier one,” or the most in demand, which generally include engineering technology, computer science, construction trades, finance and accounting, welding, industrial production and electrical certifications.
“You’re going to see a substantial shift toward those areas,” Sullivan said.
It’s not yet clear what that shift could mean for other areas that aren’t seeing as high of demand on the workforce side but still see interest among students. Sullivan said community colleges have more flexibility in re-prioritizing than four-year colleges do, though.
“It will not be fun for everyone, but we must become more productive in those areas,” he said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal praised the system’s plan and the community and technical colleges, which he sees as “a pipeline of skilled workers for the companies that are expanding in our state.