Craftsmen demand up in SWLA

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The demand for skilled industrial craftsmen increases as more baby boomers retire and less young workers pursue technical careers.

According to the South Louisiana Construction Users Council, the need for certified workers exceeds the demand for careers that require college degrees in southwest Louisiana.

The baby boomer generation currently makes up 33 percent of the workforce. The demand for craftsmen increases in the lake area as more contract laborers retire.

"It creates kind of a vacuum as these workers move out," said R. B. Smith, Vice Chancellor for Sowela Economic Development. "There's not as many workers to move in."

Sowela Technical College offers students the opportunity to learn welding and electrical trade.

The students can also participate in apprenticeship programs to do plumbing and electrical labor while in school.

Smith added that these skills can lead to a vast amount of career opportunities.

"There's a diversity of jobs that are available to you in the career field," said Smith. "You can do things where you're working here locally or anywhere in the country."

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) in Westlake offers training for high school students in the five parish region. Students have the opportunity to learn welding, electrical pipe fitting, and heavy equipment operation while still in high school.

"We are really going and trying to a get a new workforce for our local industry," said Kirby Bruchhaus, Director of Education for ABC Training.

ABC Training offers classes in welding, pipe fitting, and heavy equipment operation.

"What we're trying to do is partner with the local schools with dual enrollment programs," Bruchhaus said.

The lake area is made up of several thriving industries in need of craftsmen to serve as welders, pipe fitters, and boilermakers. More than 5,000 workers at the local plants were employed after completing training at the lake area trade schools.

"They can get not only a good job, but move up in the industry," Bruchhaus said. "They can earn a higher salary than someone with a four year degree in college."

Bruchhaus said the job forecast for skilled craftsmen is booming in southwest Louisiana.

"I think the industry is coming back in southwest Louisiana from last year into 2011," Bruchhaus said. "There's going to be a lot of work and there's going to be a lot of great opportunities for a lot of people to get trained."