Sowela expanding workforce training

Sowela expanding workforce training
(Sowela Tech Comm College)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - We need more skilled workers, that's the message that contractors in 3 growing industries here in the lake area are voicing to local leaders.

With a certification in culinary arts already under her belt, Rachel Monteville, an instructor in Sowela's culinary department knows just how large the demand is for professional cooks and chefs.

"Louisiana is known for its we need chefs to learn how to cook and keep our chefs's very important everybody needs to eat and food will never die, so keep em here," said Monteville.

There's a growing demand for skilled workers in 3 prominent areas here in southwest Louisiana:

  • Gaming
  • Culinary Arts
  • Hospitality

On Wednesday, the institution along with Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards, announced that it would build a $10.2 million culinary, gaming and hospitality center at its main campus in Lake Charles. The facility will house SOWELA's Culinary Arts program, as well as new gaming and hospitality programs. The new center will be the first of its kind in southwest Louisiana.

"Many of the schools in our state have culinary programs but what we're doing is combining and taking into account not only culinary but gaming and hospitality. For our region this is something totally brand new."                         Neil Aspinwall, Chancellor-Sowela Tech 

Last year, revenue generated by the gaming industry in Louisiana outpaced that of the oil and gas industry. However, at the moment there is no one in our region offering training specifically focused on gaming and hospitality.

Angie Manning with the SWLA Convention & Visitor's Bureau says this new center will aid the demand for workers needed in the tourism industry.

"With gaming and culinary arts, they really go hand in hand," said Manning. "We are blessed in southwest Louisiana to have a rich culture with culinary arts at the heart of why a lot of people come to Louisiana in the first place."

A big question though, are these industries truly viable sources of income for locals. Recent SOWELA culinary graduate, Kay Krausman believes so.

"With the expansion in southwest Louisiana that we've seen in the past 3 years..that brings more people to the area," said Krausman. "People have to eat and food helps bring people together."

The new facility will help SOWELA provide the programs and services needed to build and sustain this much needed workforce," said SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall.

According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission's Industry Employment Projections for 2024 in the Lake Charles region, the gaming sector is projected to increase by 15.7% as compared to petroleum and coal manufacturing which is projected to increase by only 2.0%

Aspinwall says construction on the new building should begin sometime early next year and the full project should be done by early or mid 2020. 

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