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Building a Strong Workforce Pipeline: How higher-ed and businesses are working together to cultivate a job-ready workforce.

May 7, 2021

Investing is an essential part of any successful business model. Restaurants invest in quality meat and produce to create the best dining experience for their customers. Factories invest in upgrading machinery for higher production. Farmers invest in the best seed for the highest possible yield. Here in South Louisiana, we invest in our people and the returns are undeniable.

Businesses see the benefits of investing in their workforce before employees sign on the dotted line through partnerships with higher education institutions. The relationship between businesses and universities and community colleges is symbiotic. One Acadiana is a key connector of these entities, providing guidance and support for the economic growth of the region. Through grants, donations, and programs with educational institutions, businesses can receive direct access to the talent needed specifically for their workforce instead of searching nationwide. Community colleges and universities receive funding, the opportunity to fine-tune their curriculum, and offer the promise of employment opportunities to place their alumni right after graduation. These home-grown opportunities allow graduates to continue investing in their communities, resulting in sustainable economic growth.

An example of this beneficial relationship occurred recently with LHC Group, Inc. and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. LHC Group, a national provider of in-home healthcare originating and headquartered in Acadiana, announced a $20M investment over 10 years to UL Lafayette’s nationally-ranked college of nursing program. The investment will fund scholarships,increase staff through endowed professorships, and improve infrastructure, increasing the number of students accepted into the program.

“We are appreciative and honored to work alongside LHC Group in a shared mission of service to this region, and its residents,” said UL President E. Joseph Savoie. “It makes a significant down payment on a new facility which will greatly expand our enrollment and help us provide more healthcare professionals to the area.”

LHC Group’s investment is the largest donation in the university’s history, marking the shift in focus from attracting talent to developing it in-house. Though it is often described as a gift or donation, LHC Group’s funding represents an investment in its future talent pool.

“This is a strategic investment in our future, particularly that of our LHC Group family of healthcare providers – our greatest asset and most important resource,” said LHC Group Chairman and CEO Keith Myers. “Advancing employee education is one of the strongest and most strategic differentiators for employee recruitment and retention.”

According to the International Economic Development Council, talent is the new currency in economic development. By creating a sustainable workforce pipeline in your community, you’re essentially able to grow money in your own backyard. The development of home-grown talent provides a level of sustainability that national recruiting cannot. With reliable talent nearby,businesses can effectively communicate their upcoming needs to the universities and have them adjust their curriculum to industry trends and standards. This allows graduates to be more prepared for their careers and employers to access employees skilled for their needs.

Other businesses have seen the opportunities available with educational development and have gone a step further in talent pool investment. CGI,one of the largest IT and business consulting firms in the world, set out to invest in the Acadiana community after putting down roots in Lafayette. In partnership with schools and community organizations, CGI holds STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering & Math) camps to teach students about STEM-related careers. CGI also provides mentorship opportunities to high school students as well as participates in community outreach programs. These development and mentorship programs offer growth opportunities to students as well as help to develop a viable long-term talent pool for the tech giant.

The relationship between educational institutions and businesses has never been more important. As businesses, universities, and communities recover from the pandemic, the workforce pipeline developed by industry leaders and educational institutions will be a significant driver in fortifying South Louisiana’s economy. A strong workforce pipeline produces skilled professionals and a wealth of economic opportunities for businesses and the community. It’s all about the people. That’s why it pays to invest in South Louisiana.

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