A region’s economic health largely depends on its skilled workforce pipeline. Each year BRAC releases a Workforce Report that analyzes projected high-wage jobs and the number of people in the Capital Region currently being trained for those roles. The 2018 Workforce Report was released in early November and offered recommendations to continue pushing for progress in 2019. To expand on those recommendations, BRAC created the Workforce Wednesday limited blog series. For the next month on Wednesdays, a new post will be published on the BRAC Blog providing greater insight into recommendations and providing guidance to continue moving the needle on workforce development. 

To ensure a robust pipeline of talent, there must be a continued focus on guiding students and trainees into specific high-demand occupations rather than high-demand industries in general. 

Guiding high school students toward specific high-demand occupations can have a substantial impact on the workforce pipeline in the Capital Region. One such method that has finally come to fruition after a decade of planning, the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools’ Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC), opened in August of 2018. The school, which hosts half-day training programs for 11th and 12th grade students, has enrolled over 125 students in the four pathways of Computer Science, Construction Crafts, Healthcare, and Manufacturing. Students who complete the offered programs receive certifications that make them eligible for employment in a high-demand, high-wage job right out of high school, or able to pursue additional education at a community or technical college. With these pathways, CTEC can directly affect the workforce pipeline. For instance, the largest concentration of students is enrolled in the pre-LPN and cyber security pathways, two occupations that have 300 and 60 projected openings for 2019, respectively.  

Another initiative designed to increase awareness about various careers available in the Baton Rouge Area is BRAC’s Teacher Externship Program. This program targets the decision-makers within a school rather than the students. Principals, counselors, and teachers are placed in a week-long immersive experience with companies in the manufacturing, technology, construction, and healthcare sectors. The education professionals learn the skills and educational requirements associated with high-demand occupations in each industry and receive professional training in relaying what they experienced to their students throughout the school year. Each year, BRAC reviews the projected openings in the region and encourages companies to emphasize the benefits of each occupation for students’ future success. School leaders with experience in high-demand industries are better equipped to guide students to these occupations and can communicate the necessary knowledge and skills required in that line of work. While it’s important for decision makers to be exposed to high-demand careers, it’s equally as important that attention is paid to which careers are most in need of workers – providing balance to student opportunities and economic growth within the region.  

Each of these initiatives places an added emphasis on the cultivation of vital soft skills in the next generation; an area which business leaders have consistently ranked as the region’s top workforce obstacle. In the Teacher Externship Program, education professionals spend a day learning how to incorporate soft skill lessons into their interaction with students. CTEC goes a step further by including in its curricula not only soft skills, but also the safety skills needed for each occupation. The key to success in creating a strong workforce pipeline lies within guiding students in our K-12 system to high demand occupations.  

Written by Ethan J. Melancon

As the policy and research project manager, Ethan is the staff lead for education and workforce development focusing on cultivating the Capital Region’s talent through STEM learning and aligning workforce development systems to meet business needs.