Minden is headquarters for multiple campuses
The Louisiana Community and Technical College System is celebrating the 20-year anniversary of its creation. There are 12 colleges in the system with NorthWest Louisiana Technical College (NWLTC) being the only technical college in the system.
The NWLTC has three campuses serving Minden, Shreveport, and Mansfield with 1,114 students graduating in 2018.
“Each campus is unique because each serves a different community,” said NWLTC Director Dr. Earl Meador.
“The Minden campus is what we consider to be a rural area because a lot of the people we have in Webster Parish come from our surrounding communities and it’s a unique challenge because distances are a problem. Resources are not always available so we try to provide those and understand that the community needs are different between here and Shreveport,” Meador said.
Meador said that this college is unique because every student has a story and a clear goal of why they are attending. He also said that creating role models through graduates is a goal for the college and its impact on the community.
“They all come with a dream. They want a future and they want a job whether from the big city or the tiniest community you can think of. They all have a dream. That’s why we love what we do,” Meador said, “Education is the way out of poverty. If you get one good high-paying, skilled job in a household, it sets the example for others. Before you know it you have, two, three, and then the neighbors hear about it. Before you know it, a whole community is changed. That’s what we do, we’re in the business of changing and building communities one job at a time.”
In July, South Central Technical College was dissolved into surrounding colleges. This leaves NWLTC as the sole technical college in the system. The Minden campus began as the Minden Trade School in 1952. The new campus was introduced in 2013.
“Moving forward, it leaves us in a unique spot as the only technical college in the system. The desolvation of South Central only happened in July this past summer, so it’s only happened in the last few months. So what happens to our college in the future, that’s yet to be determined and that’s not my decision to make,” Meador said “It’s, I believe to be, a legislative matter and it’s certainly a matter of the community’s desires. I’m a state employee and I’m here to serve the community.”
In 1998 the Louisiana Community and Technical College system was organized by then Governor Mike Foster. The system serves more than 130,000 students statewide has awarded more than 327,000 credentials. The system recently celebrated their 20-year anniversary at their conference in New Orleans.
“We are very blessed in our state in the way our system is organized. Many states have individual college districts so a county or parish would each have their own community college and their own property taxes. Whereas in Louisiana, we have statewide systems. So the fact that we have one board of supervisors statewide and one system president statewide really gives us some continuity as a state that other states may not have. The goal is that you would have the same quality of education in Minden, Louisiana as you would get in Shreveport or Lake Charles and Lafayette,” Meador said.
The school offers various programs that lead to careers. People come from around the region, and some from other parts of the country to attend the NWLTC Instrumentation program. Meador enjoys seeing more diversity in the Instrumentation program from efforts of he and his team.
“Sometimes our programs get stereotyped. For example, our instrumentation program turns out thousands of graduates that are known nationwide as some of the best instrumentation grads anywhere in the country. But they’ve never thought of it as a great program for females. When I got here last year we had one or two females in that program.
Cheri Greer and I met together, and I said this bothers me. We went out recruiting and we have 17 females in the program now. Diversity is so important in the workplace in terms of ethnicity and gender,” Meador said.
The school is also adopting new software to track students electronically in how close they are to graduating and encouraging them to finish their hours.
The college also has a new partnership with Webster Parish Schools to help students gain credits toward certification through the Career and Technical Center and Jump Start Pathway at the old Harper Elementary. The students attend classes most of the time at the campus and if there is a lab that they need at the NWLTC, they are bussed to campus to use the resources necessary and not available at the Career and Technical Center.
“It’s very important that if we’re going to grow our community that we have the workforce trained, educated and ready if people are going to bring their businesses here. If we create that workforce, the businesses will come,” Meador said.
Meador was a technical college graduate so he understands the value. He did not finish college until he was 40 and finished his doctorate at 50.
“I’m passionate about it because I was a technical college guy. I welded, was a mechanic, and a captain. Technical education is a passion for me,” Meador said.
Meador expressed his excitement about positive changes to Webster Parish and NWLTC.
“I’m really excited about our future. Every one of our team here is passionate. We believe in what we do and believe it’s something worth doing,” Meador said.