October 24, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
Economic development efforts usually strive to attract certain business or industry to the area. But a study shows Southwest Louisiana doesn't necessarily have the workforce needed. While low paying jobs may be unfilled, many in the mid-sector are overqualified or lack the skills needed by employers. George Swift is with the SWLA Economic Development Alliance. "Simply put, our region is comprised of a large number of workers in the $10 to $16 wage range who are being under utilized because they are geared to one type of employment while we have a shortage of workers for jobs in the same pay range in other industries."
Doctors Mike Kurth and Daryl Burckel of McNeese State University find that the community has an abundance of workers available for mid-management and administrative type jobs. Kurth explains, "We've put the emphasis on students getting four year degrees. It's the great political promise, everybody's kid is going to get a four year degree. They're going to wear a tie and white collar and have a nice job. We've really de emphasized technical education in the last thirty or forty years."
They say the area lacks workers needed in the skilled and industrial sectors such as oil and gas, petrochemical and construction. Burckel says, for example, "One of the aviation companies, I think a Shreveport company, was talking about bringing in a Department of Defense contract to do work on their planes. But to have the contract you have to have the trained workforce available for the contract to come. So you almost have that chicken or egg thing, we can't have the contract unless we have the trained work force, yet how do we train a workforce without jobs available."