LA's Tech Colleges Cuts and Role

By Evan Johnson - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana has been caught in the global economic crisis, going from a budget surplus to a budget deficit of as much as $2 billion for the 2009 - 2010 fiscal year.  Governor Bobby Jindal announced cuts to the state's budget which included higher education and although the state's technical and community colleges were spared in the mid-year cuts, they're expecting cuts in the fall.

Dr. Andrea Lewis-Miller, Chancellor of Sowela Technical Community College, says, "We're hoping that because of our growth and because of the vital role we play in workforce and economic development that those cuts will be minimal."

The president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), Dr. Joe D. May, spoke to a group of community leaders to find out what are some of the frustrations employers are facing.  The main problem in Southwest Louisiana, and around the rest of the state, is they cannot find skilled workers in a number of areas.

Dr. May says, "This includes areas such as construction, healthcare, process technology, and engineering technology.  There's a broad spectrum and we're really looking at each region of the state making sure that we're aligning our programs to meet those local needs."

Last fall, enrollment in Louisiana's community and technical colleges increased by over 7,000 students.  The Technical and Community College System attributes the growth to Louisianians investing in talent and skill development, especially as the job market becomes less certain.

Dr. Lewis-Miller says, "At the end of the day the jobs that are available in Louisiana, particularly in this area, are the kinds of jobs that the 2-year colleges, like Sowela, will prepare them for."

The state's community and technical colleges are one of the primary keys to economic growth and recovery.  They're trying to make sure there are enough skilled employees in the state to allow the economy to grow, even in a stagnant economy.