Officials meet to tackle workforce needs for Sasol - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Officials meet to tackle workforce needs for Sasol

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As one industry official put it,  it's like trying to grab hold of a train -- as they try to prepare for the explosive growth expected in our community as a result of the Sasol expansion and other business development.

Top local education leaders met with industry human resource managers and state economic development officials on Wednesday to begin mapping out plans to provide the workforce needed.

The Sasol expansion will occur on 650 acres off Houston River Road and means Sasol may be three to four times bigger in the future. The huge boost to the economy means a huge challenge ahead to provide the workforce, not just for Sasol, but other industries and segments of the community. Lab analysts, machinists, process operators and construction workers are just some of those in high demand.

Kerri Courville is Sasol's local human resources manager.

"I think some of our needs are going to be, of course, operations. So, that's going to be your p-tech graduates from McNeese and from Sowela. I think we're also going to need lab analysts, so chemistry is going to be in demand, along with engineering. So, there's going to be a wide variety. We also have to consider the construction aspect of it. So, you have your mechanical, you have your electricians, your instrumentation, your millwrights," said Courville.

Courville and other industry human resource managers met with the McNeese president, Sowela chancellor and Louisiana economic development officials to begin planning to meet workforce needs. The state is investing $20 million in training facilities at Sowela and partnering with local officials to tackle the future.

Curt Eysink is the executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

"We need to understand exactly what industry needs, when it needs those skills and people so that we can deliver those people on time," said Eysink.

Also in the meeting was Jeff Lynn, executive director, LED Workforce Development. Said Lynn,  "This is a huge number of jobs coming to Southwest Louisiana. So, we're looking at it in phases. We've looking at the different programs that they need, the time that they need to bring those people on, and then we back into that several months or several years in some cases. "

The educational leaders say there's a lot of opportunity ahead for young people. McNeese President Dr. Philip Williams has this advice for students: "Be thinking right now about the training you need either through Sowela, McNeese or both to get these great jobs that are coming to Southwest Louisiana."

He says McNeese will also help meet the demand for a qualified workforce.

"There will be workers who need training from Sowela, I think the bulk of the training will happen there. But there are also going to be professionals, engineers, other, accounting professionals, business professionals, who are going to need specific training that would be more appropriate at McNeese," said Williams.

Dr. Neil Aspinwall, Sowela Chancellor, says the $20 million from the state for an industry technology training center will serve needs for years to come.

"It's an exciting time that you can sit down with that amount of money and design a facility that's going to be customized for the industries in this area, not only for today but five, 10, 15 years from now," said Aspinwall.

He explains they will devise programs to meet the requirements of specific industrial projects.

"As the companies begin to expand, there are new training needs all the time, so this center and this concept allows us to quickly design and customize programs because we can't take canned programs that Sowela is offering now and say, 'This is the answer to your needs because it's not.' We have to ask the industry, 'what are your needs? What are the job skills, skill sets that you need and then we design programs around those,' " said Aspinwall.

The first project, an ethane cracker, is expected to come online in 2017 while a gas to liquids facility should begin operating in 2018.

There's a wealth of information in the works for those looking for jobs as well as young people who will soon choose a career path. Check out the following web sites:  www.sasolcareers.us and www.laworks.net  Even though jobs won't be listed on the State workforce web site, officials say there is information to help develop a career path and find out the educational requirements and salaries for various jobs available now in the community and in the future at Sasol and other companies.
  
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