By Jenny Vickers
From the May/June 2016 Issue

Four U.S. governors recently participated in a panel discussion focused on the chronic shortage of skilled workers in the United States; the panel, part of the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles, was moderated by Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent corporation, Alphabet. The governors all had the same message: the United States is in a global competition for 21st-century jobs and, if we don’t have the skilled workers needed to fill the requirements of advanced manufacturers or emerging players in new high-tech growth sectors, the U.S. will lose this worldwide competition and its long-held crown as the heavyweight champ of industrial giants.

So the bad news is that the skilled-labor gap, which we’ve detailed on the pages of BF for several years, still has not been bridged. There’s no shortage of bright young graduates coming out of our colleges and universities, which are still the best in the world; they’re matriculating by the tens of thousands. The key to bridging the gap is workforce training: making sure our graduates have the necessary skills to move directly into the high-tech workplace as soon as they get their diplomas.

Here’s the good news: most of the states (and the federal government) got the memo (Workforce Training is Job One) and they are moving aggressively to put in place innovative and highly effective workforce training programs that put forward-thinking businesses and higher education resources on the same team. In this annual report, we showcase locations that are out in front in the skills race.

VIRGINIA’S TRADITION OF TRAINING

Virginia has a longstanding reputation as a workforce pioneer thanks to programs such as the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015.

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe (left) congratulates Eldor Corp. President & CEO Pasquale Forte and Luca Forte, an Eldor board member, at the announcement of Eldor’s first North American production plant in Botetourt County.

VJIP is a well-established, well-funded economic development incentive focused on reducing a company’s workforce development costs. The program provides funding for economic development projects creating new jobs or undertaking a significant retraining initiative due to a change in product, process or technology.

Over the last five years, VJIP worked with 2,115 projects, supporting the creation or retraining of 52,245 jobs for Virginia citizens, making it one of the Commonwealth’s most widely used workforce development programs.

Since VA Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office in 2014, efforts have been focused on transforming the state’s workforce programs and fostering talent development strategies to ensure companies’ long-term success. In August 2014, Gov. McAuliffe signed Executive Order 23 establishing “The New Virginia Economy” Workforce Initiative which laid out plans to overhaul Virginia’s economy in four ways: increasing postsecondary education and workforce credentials; securing employment for veterans; aligning education with the needs of businesses; and diversifying the economy.

The executive order included several ambitious goals, such as the “Pathway to 50K” initiative which set a target of 50,000 credentials, licensures, apprenticeships and sub-baccalaureate degrees earned that meet the immediate needs of the state’s workforce.

In March 2016, McAuliffe signed into law measures that establish a workforce training program targeted to increase specific industry certifications and occupational licenses that meet the needs of businesses in each region of the state. With the new laws, Virginia becomes the first state in the nation to establish a pay-for-performance non-credit workforce training program. The governor also announced that the final two-year state budget contains $20 million in new resources for workforce, including $12.5 million for workforce training, $6 million for equipment needed by career and technical training programs and $1.5 million for a veterans’ portal to strengthen outreach to this key population.

Virginia’s leadership recognizes that credentialing and industry certification will be the fastest way to build a workforce that strengthens the economy and ensures a better quality of life for all. The New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program was established for this purpose. The program will expand the affordability of workforce training and credentialing; address and close the gap between the skills needed by workers and the skills of the available workforce; and increase the interest of current and future workers in technician, technologist and trade-level positions to fill the available and emerging jobs in the state.

Virginia also is launching a consumer-driven campaign to attract more people to train in advanced manufacturing careers, which many people do not know exist or underestimate the potential pay scale and the advancement opportunities they offer.

These initiatives complement other state programs aimed at delivering the talent needed by Virginia’s existing businesses and prospects. For example, Virginia was awarded $6.9 million in American Apprenticeship Grants from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to expand apprenticeships in high-growth industries like advanced manufacturing.

The state’s educational institutions are a selling point for companies considering expanding or locating in Virginia. Colleges and universities with campuses in Virginia enroll over 575,000 students, and over 96,000 Associate, Bachelor, Master’s and Doctoral degrees are awarded annually. Strong occupational and technical training programs designed to meet manufacturers’ needs are provided by the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) through its 23 colleges across the Commonwealth.

Companies such as Eldor Corporation, an international group leader in the automotive business, and ADP, a Fortune 500® firm and global leader in the financial services sector, have cited the region’s trained workforce as major reasons for their location decision.

In March, Eldor announced that it will invest about $75 million to establish its first U.S. production plant in Botetourt County, creating about 350 new manufacturing jobs. The company was also attracted to the state because of Virginia Western Community College’s Mechatronics Program.

“We found a community of genuine and collaborative people, focused on supporting investment in a practical way and with great commitment,” said Pasquale Forte, President & CEO of Eldor Corporation, in a press release. “The community has welcomed us with a professional attitude, but also with respect and friendship. We found top-class universities and a great community college, with programs dedicated to the mechatronics sector that will grow excellent young engineers with the skills necessary to run Eldor’s advanced automated lines.”

Mechatronics is the blending of mechanics, electronics and information technology. It provides graduates with the hands-on training they need to begin careers in diverse fields such as aerospace, automotive, building technologies, consumer products, logistics, energy, green technology, manufacturing, materials processing, medical, mining and transportation.

The Roanoke Regional Partnership estimates Eldor will have an annual economic impact of $246.5 million and help create more than 500 secondary jobs across Botetourt and the entire Roanoke region by 2021. Eldor is expected to begin construction shortly on its 250,000-square-foot facility, which will sit on 53 acres in the sprawling Greenfield industrial park located off U.S. 220 in Daleville. The project should be completed by August 2017.

In March, ADP selected Norfolk to establish a regional customer service center with plans to invest $32.25 million and create 1,800 new jobs. ADP will be creating quality jobs ranging from client support positions to financial analysts, information technology support staff, and management with many positions requiring four-year degrees.

Connecting ADP with public institutions of higher learning, important partners in workforce development, was a key component in the company’s decision to locate in the region.

“[The company has] the opportunity to attract a diverse workforce that will make significant contributions to ADP and add value to the client experience,” said Debbie Dyson, ADP’s Corporate Vice President, Client Experience and Continuous Improvement, in a press release. “We thank and acknowledge the efforts of our community partners, who provided critical support throughout the decision-making process.”

CULPEPER COUNTY: HIGH-TECH HUB

Just an hour south of Washington DC, technology, talent and quality of life is converging to create a high tech hub with a hometown feel.

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Germanna Community College in Culpeper is home to the Joseph R. Daniel Technology Center, which offers a wide variety of workforce development and technology training courses, programs and events.

Virginia’s Piedmont Advanced Technology Hub, located in Culpeper County, is home to a number of world-leading technology organizations such as Terremark Worldwide, Inc. Network Access Point (NAP) of the Capital Region, The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), Library of Congress, National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, FiberLight, Euro-Composites, Inc. and more. From startups to major players, the county offers businesses a unique blend of a rural environment and hometown atmosphere with the infrastructure, incentives and a highly skilled workforce that tech employers need.

Culpeper’s five strategically located Tech Zones provide incentives to qualified technology zone businesses. The incentives are offered as grants and the amount of the grants are based upon a percentage of real estate, business personal property and machinery and tool taxes paid by the business. In addition, businesses that qualify for technology zone grants will receive reimbursements up to 100 percent of the cost for building permits and site plan review permits for the property subject to technology zone grants.

The Partnership for Economic Development and Job Training is county-wide and businesses in and out of the Town of Culpeper can qualify to participate. To receive county incentives, a business must invest at least $500,000 in the county in any one year. Eligible businesses include agriculture, manufacturing, telecommunications warehousing, certain financial institutions, air transportation, engineering and computer software and hardware makers.

Since locating in Culpeper, Terremark, a leading global provider of managed IT infrastructure services, has experienced continued success and rapid growth. The Miami-based IT company opened its first data center building on a 30-acre campus off McDevitt Drive in Culpeper in 2008. Since then, it has expanded with additional data centers and a 72,000-square-foot headquarters.

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Terremark’s complex in Culpeper has expanded rapidly, adding several new data centers and a 72,000-square-foot headquarters. The company recently acquired 27 acres for 250,000 square feet of new data center space.

The federal government is Terremark’s largest client, but they also service many Fortune 500 companies such as usajobs.gov and data.gov, which rely on the company’s cloud-computing technology to keep information safe. Eleven Caterpillar generators—each of which is about the size of a diesel locomotive engine—back up the electricity in each data center, and flywheels power the facility during the 10 seconds it takes the generators to kick in. Terremark’s most recent expansion includes acquiring an additional 27 acres of land directly adjacent to its data center campus. The $5-million land acquisition provided the company with the ability to add at least 250,000 square feet of high-quality data center space and close to 100,000 square feet of Class A office space, effectively doubling the size of the campus.

“With the outstanding success and explosive growth of the NAP of the Capital Region, acquiring the land adjacent to the existing campus was a vital step in securing our position to continue meeting the strong demand for Terremark’s services among federal customers and large multinational companies,” said Manuel D. Medina, Terremark’s Chairman and CEO. “Our ability to secure contracts for a significant percentage of our existing data center space so quickly is a testament to the unique ecosystem of highly secure, top-quality solutions that are ideally suited to meet the needs of large organizations pursuing data center consolidation and other IT projects to drive greater efficiencies in their systems.”

Terremark’s headquarters building features a 150-seat auditorium built to the federal government’s Physical Security Standards for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF) and approximately 50,000 square feet of Class A office space that can be built to SCIF specifications in order to meet customer demands.

With the highest concentration of technology workers in the country, Virginia has become a world-class center for emerging Internet technology, software development, fiber optics and advanced communications companies. The Commonwealth offers a dynamic IT industry cluster with a talented and skilled workforce supported by an acclaimed educational system offering a variety of cutting-edge IT degree programs.

In Culpeper County, the Joseph R, Daniel Technology Center of Germanna Community College was designed primarily for workforce development instruction and technology training. Located at the junction of U.S. Route 29 and State Route 3 just east of the town of Culpeper, the Daniel Technology Center occupies 34 acres. Built on two levels, the 39,000-square-foot facility features a conference center that seats 600 theater-style, banquet seating for 300, manufacturing technology lab, executive conference room, interactive video theater, computer tech lab, training suite and a catering kitchen.

The Center for Workforce & Community Education serves as the community’s resource for career advancement, professional development, personal enrichment and community enrichment activities. The Center for Workforce & Community Education offers workforce certification programs for skilled positions, with available courses in healthcare; information technology; industry, manufacturing and construction; business and professional development; and transportation. An Adult Career Center provides career coaching and job placement services include career coach workshops, career and education planning, job preparation, job placement, and program admission services.

Germanna’s Center for Workforce & Community Education and FredXchange also offer a program called SkillUpVA that aims to give area residents the tools they need to drive innovation and job creation in Virginia. They’ve hosted workshops geared toward startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs on topics such as analyzing business data, developing an Internet strategy, keeping down costs, IT infrastructure and scaling an enterprise.

AIDT: 700,000 WORKERS AND COUNTING

AIDT, a division of the Alabama Department of Commerce, is the state’s primary workforce training program. AIDT is tasked with helping train Alabamians in specific skills needed for new and expanding industry. Since 1971, the program has played a critical role in the state’s workforce and economic development efforts, training over 700,000 people and assisting over 3,800 companies. AIDT has promoted growth in Alabama through customized workforce training that’s offered at no cost to companies and trainees. AIDT’s expertise in recruitment and pre-employment training assists existing companies and plays a major role in economic development.

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A grand opening ceremony for the third phase of Alabama’s Robotics Technology Park—The Integration, Entrepreneurial and Paint/Dispense Training Center—was held in April.

AIDT operates training centers throughout the state, each one tailored to develop and build upon the region’s existing strengths: engineering, manufacturing and automotive in Huntsville; forest products in Opelika; robotics in Tanner; and aviation, chemical, telecommunications, maritime and other industries in Mobile.

One of the newest training centers to open is the $7 million AIDT Alabama Aviation Training Center in Mobile. The center, which opened in 2014, is preparing a skilled workforce for Airbus.

The new Airbus assembly operation began delivering its Alabama-made Airbus A320 Family of aircraft to customers in April 2016. The factory is one of only three in the U.S. where large passenger jets are assembled.

The new Airbus facility, along with AIDT’s aviation training center, will help further expand the state’s robust aerospace industry, which comprises about 83,000 aerospace-related workers for 400 aerospace companies. Airbus facilities will add 1,000 new jobs to that.

The new center includes six classrooms and labs, making it capable of training scores of skilled workers that could end up assembling Airbus aircraft.

“This is more than a building. It’s actually a milestone,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield at the opening event. “It’s the next step in a partnership. This is more than a training center…this building represents dreams. The people who come through here will see their lives changed forever.”

AIDT opened another new training center, the Alabama Workforce Training Center, last spring. The new 56,000- square-foot facility, located in Birmingham, the state’s largest metro area, will allow for manufacturers, contractors and other industries to link up with AIDT along with public education and the two-year and even four-year colleges to equip students with specific skills needed to fill jobs.

“This training center will provide a turnkey trained workforce for employers in the Birmingham region,” said Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) President and CEO Brian Hilson at the opening. “Alabama Workforce Training Center-trained workers will have the skills necessary to meet the industry needs of employers in our community.”

Training at the Birmingham facility will be conducted by AIDT staff, as well as trainers and vendors affiliated with industry partners. The customized training will be designed to meet immediate workplace needs and allow trainees to receive certifications that designate specific skills.

In addition to the new training facilities, AIDT recently opened the third phase of Robotics Technology Park (RTP) in North Alabama. The grand opening for the third phase, The Integration, Entrepreneurial and Paint/Dispense Training Center was held on April 11, 2016.

Alabama companies will be able to use this facility to introduce new technologies into their existing manufacturing lines. This will include trouble-shooting and product integration as well as training. It will allow small companies to further develop their new business or new business venture relating to robotics and automation technologies. In addition, the Paint/Dispense Technology training will assist our automotive industry and other companies that have paint within their manufacturing process train and re-train their current and prospective workforce.

“This fits in extremely well with what I’ve been putting into place with our Accelerate Alabama plan,” said Governor Robert Bentley. “The recruitment of jobs, the retention of companies and helping them to grow, and then the innovation and entrepreneurship, which will help companies develop out of ideas.”

The park’s Phase 1 building, which covers 60,000 square feet, is equipped with 40 robots and a lab for automated welding where technicians learn how to maintain automated equipment. The Phase II building, which covers 43,000 square feet, allows company workers to test new robots or other automated equipment. Outside is a mile-long track for testing unmanned vehicles. Phase III will now give companies a place to build, test and adapt manufacturing lines for new uses. The RTP’s three facilities have a total investment topping $73 million.

In Huntsville, AIDT is focused on building upon the region’s engineering and manufacturing prowess. Huntsville, which has a population of 180,000, is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which has played a major role in U.S. space exploration, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal. Many aerospace companies have operations in the city, including Raytheon and Boeing, which recently announced plans to open a technology research center.

The north Alabama high-tech hub also is a manufacturing center. The Toyota facility, now undergoing its fifth significant expansion in a decade, is the automaker’s only location in the world that produces four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines under one roof.

The region also hosts two notable economic successes: leading off-road vehicle producer Polaris and pioneering firearms maker Remington Outdoor Co.

AIDT assists Polaris in assembling and preparing its workforce to design a new generation of off-road vehicles. The company announced in January 2014 that the new facility will help create 1,700 new jobs. Polaris, which recorded 2013 sales of $3.8 billion, produces all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and side-by-side vehicles. The company owns the Victory and Indian motorcycle brands and actively is advancing the development of electric/hybrid-powered vehicles.

Polaris’ announcement came almost exactly a year after Remington unveiled plans to build a $110 million factory in Huntsville that will eventually employ more than 2,000 people. AIDT is working with Remington to train workers for the Huntsville facility.

TEXAS: 20 YEARS AND COUNTING

This year, Texas is celebrating 20 years of the state’s premier workforce training program, the Skills Development Fund (SDF)—and there is much to celebrate. Since its inception in 1996, the program has helped to create or upgrade more than 300,000 jobs and assist over 4,000 employers with customized training needs. The Legislature has allocated $48.5 million to the Skills Development Fund for the 2016-17 biennium.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) provides access to a team of highly skilled professionals who provide technical assistance, at no charge, to help streamline the development of projects and proposals. The team is available to work directly with employers, colleges, Local Workforce Development Boards and economic development partners throughout the life of the project to ensure employers are getting the training their workers need.

The program plays a critical role in helping to develop custom pathways to preserve and enhance the pipeline of highly skilled workers and strengthen the economy.

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Texas Workforce Commissioner, Ruth R. Hughes, signs a check representing a $192,376 TWC grant to Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, backing a partnership with voestalpine Texas LLC to train workers for the company’s new plant. (Source: Texas Workforce Commission)

In May 2016, the program provided a $515,214 grant to Flowers Baking Co of Denton and LoneStarCNC to partner with North Central Texas College (NCTC). This grant will be used to provide customized training to 250 new and incumbent workers with focused instruction on industry-related topics such as bread oven operation, bun bagger, bun tray stacker and bun proofer operations.

In August 2015, the program awarded a $192,376 grant to Del Mar College in Corpus Christi to partner with voestalpine Texas LLC to provide job training to 135 new workers. Voestalpine is a natural gas-based direct reduction plant with an annual capacity of 2 million metric tons of Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI). HBI is a high-grade feedstock for the production of high-quality steel grades.

“We are excited to award this grant from the Skills Development Fund to help meet an identified job-training need in the Portland community,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. “Through this collaboration, we are able to invest in our communities, stimulate job creation and provide higher wages.”

The program also played a critical role in securing a company that will create 350 jobs in San Marcos. In October 2015, the Texas Workforce Commission announced the award of a $1.7 million job-training grant through its Skills Development Fund to Epic Piping Inc. and Austin Community College (ACC).

Epic Piping, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based pipe fabricator, opened a new 221,500-square-foot facility in San Marcos in early 2015 and projects having as many as 600 employees by late 2016.

The Epic Piping and ACC partnership is innovative in its process. Epic Piping is one of the largest specialty pipe fabricators of its kind under one roof in the world. This grant will allow ACC’s Continuing Education Division to begin a program to supply instructors who will be on site at the Epic Piping facility to teach workers high-level skills in robotics and other manufacturing processes. ACC will offer training programs on fabrication, pipefitting, welding, tacking and industrial painting to 554 of Epic’s employees.

“Our partnership with ACC is a long-term investment,” said Kent Shepherd, EPIC Piping president of domestic fabrication, in the announcement. “The training programs impact the entire EPIC operation. Employees get the specialized training they need, and the Central Texas community benefits from a more highly skilled workforce.”

Available workforce was key to the site selection process for Epic Piping and the Greater San Marcos Partnership had the answer to that need. Not only does the City have an available workforce of 2.4 million in a 60-mile radius, but GSMP emphasized its knowledge of the Skills Development Fund grant program and included assistance in the application process as the company was being courted.

“Skills grants deliver customized training solutions that help Texas employers and workers succeed in the marketplace,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “This investment builds not only employee skills, but the capabilities of our community colleges to the benefit of employers and the community. We are pleased to make this investment.”

The grant will serve as a launch pad for the creation and facilitation of an applied STEM academy for San Marcos area high school students. Upon completion of the program, the machinery will be donated to the San Marcos Independent School District for use in training area high school students in the specific advanced welding techniques utilized by Epic Piping.

FOCUS ON MANUFACTURING IN OK

Oklahoma’s workforce development is focused on filling the talent shortfall gap that exists in its manufacturing industry, which is interwoven into five key economic systems in the state, contributing more than $18 billion to the economy, employing over 140,000 people and representing more than 4,000 companies. Nationally, there are an estimated 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs and this number is expected to climb as high as 3 million by 2018. According to a report from the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, the state has a 23-point gap between its current workforce and the skilled workforce necessary by 2020.

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Oklahoma’s CareerTech initiative offers training for high school students and adults at OK’s technical colleges, including the Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City (wind program training floor, pictured above). (Source: Oklahoma Department of Commerce)

Studies show that people who are familiar with manufacturing are twice as likely to consider careers in manufacturing, which has an average annual compensation of around $60,000 in Oklahoma. That’s why Oklahoma is leveraging national, state, local and industry-led workforce development initiatives to ensure an agile workforce and the skills needed for the state to achieve greater productivity, innovation and global economic competitiveness.

The Oklahoma Works initiative brings all of the state’s workforce resources together, connecting employers, employees, job seekers and higher education to ensure businesses have access to a pipeline of talent. It offers key workforce training programs such as the Training for Industry Program (TIP), which helps companies create the quality workforce it needs to be successful, at little or no cost. TIP is delivered through Oklahoma’s system of 59 technology center campuses across the state providing services such as job analysis, training needs assessment, pre-employment training, pre-production training, post-production training, instructional materials and development, training supplies and more.

Another successful initiative is OK2GROW, a small business driven workforce development and career pathways nonprofit focused on entrepreneurship, high school completion and career awareness activities. Programs include the Scholarships to Success entrepreneurship program, the High School Completion Coalition and Dream It Do It Oklahoma, which all create awareness of careers and promote pathways that build confidence and excitement for workplace success.

The state also works with nationally recognized credentialing programs to prepare students for career opportunities: ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), MSSC Certified Production Technician (CPT), the National Institute for Metal Working Skills (NIMS) machining credentials, the American Welding Society (AWS) Certified Welder credentials and the certification programs of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

The Tulsa Career Production Technician (CPT) High School program teaches students skills such as workplace safety, quality practices, manufacturing production and maintenance awareness. The coursework is supplemented with weekly manufacturing-related field trips as well as the opportunity students have during the spring semester to work with area employers in paid internships. At the end of the year, students who successfully complete the CPT class will have earned their OSHA 10 and 30 certifications as well as gained the nationally recognized status of CPT.

The program was offered at Tulsa Public Schools and most recently, Charles Page High School in Sand Springs. OK2Grow and Dream It Do It help the CPT classes with workplace visits, guest speakers and payment for some of the student interns.

“At Tulsa Public Schools, the CPT program has provided practical, hands-on experiences and opportunities for students to see industry first hand,” said Taylor Hill-Taylor, Director of College and Career Readiness at Tulsa Public Schools. “This certification that is earned has allowed our students to find employment and seek higher education opportunities while earning a livable wage. This program affords students opportunities to gain knowledge while in a safe environment and then translate those skills into an opportunity for advancement. While only in our second year of offering the CPT program, the value of students gaining industry recognized certifications and being able to progress into future trainings is of the highest benefit.”

Across the state, communities are taking workforce training into their own hands, developing local programs to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education among middle and high school students and prepare for a skilled workforce. One example is “STEM City,” a program of the Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation to help prepare young people for high-tech jobs and diversify the economy.

According to Barry Albrecht, president and CEO of Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation, some of the most advanced technologies are being developed at Fort Sill, where the military and schools are working together to bring STEM education into communities. The military base impacts nearly 26 districts throughout the state.

“Our new focus has guided us into new target markets and target industries,” said Albrecht. “We’re getting more attention in information systems and software development. It’s industries like these that face a workforce challenge, and we’re meeting that need.”

Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton offers pre-engineering and biomedical science programs that have been in existence for nearly 10 years. Great Plains also has strong computer science programs that have proven successful in preparing students for continued education and entry into the workforce. The center’s pre-engineering courses are offered at all three Lawton high schools.

“Fifteen years ago businesses were looking for incentives, but today the top question is workforce and education,” says Tom Deighan, superintendent of Lawton Public Schools. “My heart’s desire is that [Lawton] becomes recognized as a premier educator and that every one of our students graduates with a career, whether it’s off to college or a technical degree. We need people who are adaptable, and we want to become a graduation factory.”

GE recently sponsored a week-long STEM program for up to 50 students at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) and launched an open innovation challenge. The initiatives are part of STEM Empowers OK, and will invite students from schools throughout the state to share ideas. Much of the funding from the GE Foundation will support internships, mentoring and scholarship opportunities for Oklahoma students, as well as a new summer GE STEM Fellowship program for Oklahoma teachers. The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) will manage the Open Innovation Challenge.

“Through STEM Empowers OK, we will engage a new generation of scientists and engineers across Oklahoma,” said Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, GE. “We could not ask for better partners than OCAST and OSSM. These organizations support new entrepreneurs and future scientists and engineers who are motivated to solve the world’s toughest challenges.”

Oklahoma’s booming aerospace field, accounting for more than 120,00 jobs, is presenting additional opportunities for workforce development. The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education (CareerTech) initiative offers specialized courses and detailed training programs to fill the request for skilled aerospace employees. The program allows both high school students and adults to work with giants like Tinker Air Force Base and the state’s technical colleges, including Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, Mid-Del Technology Center and Gordon Cooper Technology Center.

In April 2015, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and education officials announced the launch of the Tulsa Tech Aerospace Academy for area high school students, a program that began last fall at the Tulsa Tech Riverside Campus. Students take classes in aviation maintenance, network technician training, cyber security and private pilot ground school.

LED’S FASTSTART: GOLD STANDARD

Louisiana’s FastStart program, which has perennially topped our annual ranking as the gold standard for state workforce training initiatives, continues to upgrade its services.

FastStarts’ C4 certification programs continue to expand and innovate. Up to 50 Louisiana high schools will offer Certification for Manufacturing (C4M) for the first time in the 2016-2017 school year. This year, the C4 Workforce Certification Program was expanded to include Certification for Industrial Maintenance (C4IM). This new Certification was developed in direct response to needs discovered through a partnership with Louisiana companies.

A new Operator Apprenticeship model is now offering an Associate’s Degree at Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges. These partnerships combine relevant curriculum in classroom settings with an apprenticeship at participating Louisiana companies.

Acadiana Opportunity, a collaborative effort among LED and five state and regional partners, helps dislocated workers connect with training opportunities to advance careers. More than 1,000 people have signed up and received funding for training classes, resume workshops and other employment assistance. Letters of intent to hire people are being sent by Louisiana companies to those who complete corresponding classes.

Louisiana’s Certified Workforce Developers (CWD) Program is designed as a collaborative venture between LCTCS (Louisiana’s Community and Technical College System) and LED and is delivered through LED FastStart. Participants include Workforce Development professionals from the technical and community colleges and local economic development organization team members.

The program synchronizes training development and delivery to the LED FastStart standard, creating a common and unified experience for all companies in Louisiana. It allows companies to continue receiving training from local technical and community colleges after state incentives sunset, and fosters a networking environment to share resources and ideas across Louisiana campuses to support workforce development.

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FastStart played a critical role in the development of the GE Capital Technology Center in New Orleans, recently renamed the GE Digital Solutions Technology Center.

“To me, the uniqueness of FastStart [is] it’s not simply, ‘I have six tools in my tool chest, and if you can use the tools, that’s okay.’ What I found good about the organization is, as we discovered things that we needed that didn’t exist, the team went after it to do it,” said Mike DeBoer CIO, GE Digital Solutions Technology Center.

A year ago, GE announced plans to exit the financial sector, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the future of the GE Capital Tech Center. But this year, the outlook is much brighter for the NOLA facility, which is scaling up hiring and transitioning the center to develop software for industrial customers. The New Orleans tech center, opened in April 2013, develops a range of financial software and repeatedly is highlighted as a major win for the city and the local tech industry.

Officials said the GE Digital Solutions Technology Center will transition into software development for GE’s industrial customers, primarily in the electric power, water, and oil and gas segments. GE Oil & Gas headquarters are in Houston, and GE Power & Water works out of Atlanta.

GE said it has had great success with products developed in New Orleans over the past two years. A central location and skilled workforce makes New Orleans the right fit to develop key industrial software, the company said.

GE Capital announced plans to scale up to 300 positions by late 2015 when it opened the tech center in April 2013. The center currently employs 240 people, mostly in high-paying software development, engineering and project management jobs.

GE also remains committed to its technology apprenticeship program with the University of New Orleans. The program (started in 2013) matches UNO computer science students with work opportunities at the tech center. Students earn course credits and are paid between $15 and $17 per hour while honing on-the-job skills, including software development, operations security and operational risk management.

Each year, the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council approves short-term and long-term, statewide and regional occupation- and industry-growth projections, based on recommendations from the Occupational Forecasting Conference developed through collaboration with Louisiana State University (LSU).

Last year, the Baton Rouge Labor Market Area was projected to experience the greatest growth in the industries of specialty trade contractors; heavy civil engineering and construction; ambulatory healthcare; hospitals; and professional and technical services. Because of the heavy overlap between several of these industries, occupations within these fields are most easily grouped into skilled craft (specialty trade contractors and construction), healthcare (ambulatory and hospitals) and professional services. There is a consensus between state occupational projections and local businesses in terms of the type of labor needed regionally, and significant steps have been taken by education and training institutions in Baton Rouge to meet this need.

Training providers, including the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS)—through Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC); River Parishes Community College (RPCC; Associated Builders and Contractors–Pelican Chapter; and Our Lady of the Lake (OLOL) College—have expanded their skilled craft and nursing certificate/degree programs, and are looking to provide new, individualized workforce solutions to local businesses. In addition, LCTCS, LSU and Southern University (SU) continue to provide a strong pipeline of professional services talent.

To ensure the workforce pipeline fulfills regional need, stakeholders are addressing the Baton Rouge Area’s workforce needs through expanding training programs for high-demand occupations, engaging in public-private employer-trainer partnerships and committing to reach out to underrepresented communities in high demand occupations.

NC: CONSISTENT, COHESIVE WORKFORCE STRATEGY

NCWorks, launched by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory in 2014, is a state workforce development initiative to promote one consistent, cohesive strategy for workforce development across the state. The goal is to connect North Carolina jobs with North Carolina people.

NCWorks uses a team approach to recruiting, screening and training. The initiative recently helped GE Aviation’s $150 million expansion through finding and training the right workers for 105 new jobs. “NCWorks has done a lot of great things for us,” said Kory Wilcox, GE Aviation Human Resource Lead. “They came on site with us, sat in strategy meetings and helped us decide how we were going to go after the workforce and how to be most effective.”

The new 80,000-square-foot expansion will allow for GE Aviation, a global leader in jet engine and aircraft systems, to increase capacity as the shop assumes additional machining work at its facility in West Jefferson.

To meet GE Aviation’s need, a multi-step application screening process was used beginning with a dedicated microsite on NCWorks.gov, an online application and skills assessment, pre-employment training and in-depth new hire training.

NCWorks brought together a team from the NCWorks Career Center, Wilkes Community College, the High Country Workforce Development Board, the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce and Ashe County Economic Development to help.

“Every member of the team offered services to help recruit talent, develop trainings and outreach to the community,” said Adrian Tait, former Director of the High Country Workforce Development Board. “By combining the strengths of this team we were able to deliver a complete package of services to connect GE Aviation with the talent they needed.”

Then the High Country Workforce Development Board implemented a multi-faceted marketing strategy that included a direct mailing to workers dislocated from other area manufacturers, newspaper and web advertising, local television and radio spots, and social media outreach. In addition, area NCWorks Career Centers provided personal outreach to job seekers, one-on-one assistance with applications and resumes, and hosted online skill assessments.

The new facility is part of a larger commitment by GE Aviation to invest $195 million across its North Carolina operations through 2017. GE Aviation has more than 1,300 employees in North Carolina at sites in Durham, West Jefferson, Wilmington and Asheville. The West Jefferson expansion, combined with the new facility in Asheville, NC and plant and equipment upgrades at existing sites across North Carolina, will create 242 additional GE jobs by 2017.

NCWorks also has assisted in finding new applicants to take the jobs of an aging workforce at five furniture companies in Catawba Valley. To increase interest in, and train workers for the furniture jobs, the county’s local NCWorks Career Center partnered with Catawba Valley Community College to create the Furniture Academy.

Since the Furniture Academy launched in 2014, it has trained around 100 people for jobs, and those individuals have gone to work for local furniture companies.

“This is what it’s all about,” Governor McCrory said in a Hickory Record article. “It’s connecting people with jobs and industries that are looking for talent. So we’re making talent with education, and this is our objective throughout the state. What they’re doing in Hickory could be a role model for the rest of the state. And it’s also showing that we’re not giving up on the furniture industry, and there’s a future for the furniture industry in North Carolina to grow.”

This idea has also taken off in other communities, with companies in Alexander County forming their own furniture academy and other businesses in Catawba County adopting this model for manufacturing. In addition, the founding partners of the Furniture Academy have partnered with other companies to establish an apprenticeship program within the three schools systems of Catawba County.

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