A few minutes with … Willie Smith

POSITION: Vice chancellor for economic and workforce development, South Louisiana Community College.

AGE: 44

Smith serves as a liaison among South Louisiana Community College’s eight campuses across Acadiana and for the workforce needs of the area. A Mobile, Ala., native who currently lives in Carencro, Smith has worked in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, under which SLCC falls, for the past 14 years.

What is your role as vice chancellor?

My day is spent making sure we have the capacity to meet industry needs, that we have a pipeline of students and continue to train students with the relevant skills they need to find jobs in the workforce. The crucial part of that is meeting with the chambers, economic development and industry folks to see what training is needed, what new equipment we may need to support their industry’s growth.

Are there any challenges to meeting those needs?

The colleges have taken on budget cuts in the past and it has hampered us from buying equipment. That’s part of my job: to make sure we have the cutting-edge equipment needed to train workers.

How has the college built relationships with industry?

Each dean has — at a minimum — annual advisory meetings with industry. Some meet semi-annually or monthly just to make sure we keep up with their needs for training. We held town hall meetings in the past year. We’re a community college, and we need to respond to what the community needs.

What kind of feedback did you get from the town hall meetings?

We’re looking into a veterinary tech program for Opelousas, and we heard about a need for nurses in every area.

Are there any new projects or programs the college is working on?

We’re in the process of reviewing all our curriculum to make them more efficient and reduce the time to get students out so they can get into the workforce and not incur more school debt.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy going out and meeting new employers. We get to meet people who are investing in Louisiana, who are investing in Acadiana. They sincerely want our students. That’s rewarding in itself.

Advocate staff writer

Marsha Sills