La. gets $6 million grant for job training

Louisiana was awarded a $6.17 million federal grant Thursday that state officials said may mean employment in high-demand occupations for as many as 1,200 residents in 36 parishes.

The money is a portion of $154.8 million in Job-Driven National Emergency Grant funds announced by the U.S. Department of Labor for job training in 32 states, Puerto Rico and the Cherokee tribal nation.

“This grant means we’ll have more workers who are qualified and possess the credentials required for Louisiana’s highest-demand occupations,” said Bryan Moore, director of the state Office of Workforce Development.

The affected parishes extend from the areas surrounding New Orleans and Baton Rouge, westward past Houma and Lafayette, all the way to Lake Charles.

Construction, ship repair, health care and information technology are among the occupations for which training dollars can be spent in south Louisiana, Labor Department officials announced. Labor Department officials added that demand is increasing for shipfitters, pipefitters, electricians and welders.

“South Louisiana has significant opportunities and demands that we and all our workforce partners are attempting to” match with qualified workers, said Tom Guarisco, communications director for the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Announcement of the grant funds for job training comes at a time when South Africa’s Sasol Ltd. already is planning to spend as much as $21 billion on a pair of chemical and gas-to-diesel facilities near Westlake in Calcasieu Parish.

More billions in industrial expenditures are planned for the Mississippi River corridor that extends from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

“This is going to fund training,” Guarisco said of the federal money. “This grant provides training for people that need it.”

Guarisco said that includes long-term unemployed people, recently discharged military veterans and people whose unemployment benefits are expected to run out before they can rejoin the workforce.

The federal grant also can be used to provide incentives to employers, Guarisco explained. He said employers with approved apprenticeship or other on-the-job-training programs could be reimbursed 50 percent of wages earned during their new employees’ training.

“It’s an opportunity for people to earn while they learn,” Moore said. “We’re here to make the connection between people who are eager to find gainful employment and employers who are desperately trying to fill job vacancies with skilled workers.”

People who want job training can contact any LWC Business and Career Solutions Center, Guarisco said. They can go online for a list at www.laworks.net.

Employers interested in training programs should call LWC Business Services Manager Greg DeClouet at (225) 342-6174 or email him at gdeclouet@lwc.la.gov, Guarisco said.

Parishes targeted by the grant program include Acadia, Allen, Ascension, Assumption, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana and Evangeline.

Also, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena and St. James.

Also, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Vermilion, Vernon, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.