Officials in the State and local parishes are working
together to establish a first-ever maritime training program in Louisiana that
will unite three separate community colleges.
Though the effort is just beginning, officials say that
programs at Fletcher Technical Community College, Delgado Community College and
South Central Louisiana Technical College could be affected as early as this
spring as part of the creation of the “Maritime Center of Excellence”.
Said Earl Meador, Interim Chancellor and Director at
Fletcher, "It's about bringing together all of the marine resources in the
state to serve the program as a whole."
Meador, along with Monty Sullivan, the Director of
Louisiana Community and Technical College System, credit Senator Norby Chabert
(R-Houma) with spearheading the initiative.
According to Chabert, "If we're going to be a maritime-based
commerce economy in south Louisiana, it doesn't make sense to be training
people for jobs not necessarily in this area or not giving them the training for
jobs that exist in this area."
Ten months ago the discussions began following the last
legislative session when oilfield businesses started the conversation in an
effort to address a skilled worker shortage. Sullivan then reached out to Chabert and they
began a dialogue about the creation of the Center.
Creating the partnership
Centers like the one proposed were established by
Legislature in 2010, and are intended to "provide opportunities for
partnerships between college and local business and industry to educate and
train a skilled workforce”. Louisiana
state law requires that a center meet a documented workforce need, and teachers
must have national, international and local expertise. Additionally, the schools must bring in
resources like equipment and faculty from industry partners. Five such centers operate across Louisiana,
including Fletcher’s oilfield technology program and Delgado’s cooking
Survey results pending
Officials are currently waiting on the results of a study,
performed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry that will
better identify training needs and workforce demands. The survey will remain open until next
Early results suggest that the Louisiana maritime industry
expects to hire 3,000 workers within the next five years, with the primary
needs being deckhands, boat captains and wheelmen. Final recommendations from the survey are
expected within a month. Once the
results are complete, they will be presented to Chabert’s Senate committee and
an official proposal will be drafted shortly thereafter.
Says Chabert, "Those three schools [Delgado, Fletcher
and South Central Louisiana Tech] really have had a background, if you will, in
certain aspects of certification and the degree fields that maritime businesses
have needed, need and will need in the future."
Programs could include two-year degrees or new
certifications. Such programs and
degrees would require approval by the USCG or state Board of Regents for Higher
Education. However, if approved, some of
the programs could be impacted as soon as this spring.
A building to house the program
Officials have started the planning process for a building
to house the new program. Rumors began
in early December about a $50 million facility near Fletcher’s campus, and, in
fact, a request for $50 million from Louisiana’s construction budget was
made. Wherever the building ends up,
pending approval, the completion of construction could be over two years away.
According to Sullivan, part of the goal of the center is to
connect workers in Houma-Thibodaux and New Orleans to jobs available. Said Sullivan, "We've got to get more
people in those programs and create skilled workers. We've got to broaden the
number of programs we offer. Some of the info we're seeing in early results,
we're probably touching about half of the workforce demands."
The center would also work closely with Fletcher and South
Central’s current safety certification programs.