Program will give St. Landry, area workers needed skills
A consortium of educators and business, civic and government leaders has taken an important step toward giving workers in St. Landry Parish and across the area the skills they need to advance themselves and build a stronger regional economy.
More than 100 stakeholders met January 11 and committed to a “55 by 25” initiative to increase the proportion of adults in Acadiana who continue their education after high school. Dr. Natalie Harder, chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, and Jimmy Bernard of Lafayette-based Stuller, Inc, were moderators of the meeting at the University of Louisiana Student Union in Lafayette.
The goal is to increase the proportion of working adults in the region who earn post-secondary degrees, professional certificates, or other high-value credentials to 55 percent by the year 2025.
The effort stems from studies that show that 65 percent of the jobs in the United States will require education beyond high school by 2020. Currently, 24.2 percent of adults in the nine parishes in the One Acadiana regional development organization have an associate (two-year) degree or certification of mastery in a skilled trade.
The “55 by 25” effort was endorsed by St. Landry Parish leaders at a meeting here several months ago, during which school superintendent Patrick Jenkins pointed out that technical certificates and credentials are becoming more important as more students opt for career paths that do not lead through college.
Additionally, St. Landry economic development director Bill Rodier noted that one of the principal goals for the parish is to provide “students at every level and of every capacity the fullest access to the best possible academic, career, and life education.”
Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education, was principal speaker at the January 11 meeting. Participants included higher education leaders, school district superintendents, business leaders, heads of nonprofit organizations, and public officials. They endorsed a program that will focus on four areas:
- Kindergarten readiness — promoting the need for high-quality early care and education and advocating for increased funding.
- Third-grade reading — supporting school districts in improving outcomes on third grade reading levels.
- High school to college transition — identifying and addressing barriers to access to post-secondary education.
- Credential completion — promoting programs and initiatives that help students and returners acquire the certificates and credentials they need to advance in their chosen profession.
Harder, whose oversight responsibility includes the T.H Harris campus in Opelousas, told the gathering that she is “inspired by the partners who are coming together in support of this initiative” and that she is “confident we can achieve and even surpass our goal.”
Reed praised south Louisiana leaders for their effort and said the “25 by 55” program, the first of its kind in the state, will “set the standard for building Louisiana’s future economy.”
She said, “Louisiana has a moral and economic imperative to improve its talent development pipeline. … We must honor all pathways that lead to success, especially among groups that have traditionally lacked access to higher education and the promise of a better life.”
Rodier noted that the regional initiative goes hand-in-hand with a new focus in Louisiana on two-year colleges such as LSU-Eunice and SLCC. He said that schools serving St. Landry Parish have been consistent leaders in providing courses that give students the degrees and credentials they need for successful careers.
Three things to know about this story:
- More than 100 stakeholders met January 11 and committed to a “55 by 25” initiative to increase the proportion of adults in Acadiana who continue their education after high school.
- The goal is to increase the proportion of working adults who earn post-secondary degrees, professional certificates, or other high-value credentials.
- The effort was endorsed by St. Landry Parish leaders at a meeting here several months ago.
Lafayette, LA 70503