WISE plan clears Louisiana Senate

The Jindal administration’s plan for positioning higher education to meet the workforce’s job demands sailed through the Louisiana Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate voted 36-0 for the measure after making a slight alteration which will require a trip to the House for concurrence.

House Bill 1033 would create the Workforce Innovation for a Stronger Economy, or WISE fund. Colleges and universities would compete for a $40 million pool of funds annually. The $40 million would be subject to annual appropriation by the Legislature.

The funds would be controlled by the Louisiana Board of Regents, the state’s top higher education board.

Colleges would get a share of the dollars by producing graduates for high-demand fields and bringing in private funding.

The focus likely will be on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

State Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, sponsored the change which spelled out the type of private sector match that could be counted. Chabert’s amendment would allow personnel to be provided as an in-kind match. “This will really help community and technical colleges” by providing experts in certain high-demand fields to help with the training, Chabert said.

“It strengthens the bill,” Chabert said.

The WISE plan represents a collaboration with the state Department of Economic Development and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The goal is to match schools’ education focuses with the needs of the state’s economy.