Snapshots: 60 Seconds With Paul Helton, LED FastStart

Paul Helton, Executive Director, LED FastStart, discusses the recruitment, training and support services at the heart of one of the nation's top workforce development programs.

By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2018 Issue

Business Facilities: LED FastStart® pioneered the use of iPads and other digital platforms to provide real-time training tools. What advantages were gained by digitizing the training process?

LED FastStart
Paul Helton, Executive Director, LED FastStart

PH: The greatest advantage is effectiveness: being able to present training materials through multiple digital platforms, with customized video and graphic materials. While that capability has always been available through computer-based training, and companies have been doing that for a while, putting it to a mobile device allows that kind of interactivity to be taken directly to the point of application for training, specifically for hands-on training.

It also allows us to push a lot more training content into a smaller package. Instead of having to have a 300-page manual, we’ve got all of that information—including reference diagrams, videos and animations, everything that would be needed to aid that learning experience—all in one small mobile package that they can take right to the point of application. Younger students and job candidates in particular are very much wired to learn in this format.

BF: LED FastStart is promoted as a “turnkey” workforce solution. What are the main elements of such a turnkey solution?

PH: The three main elements of our in-depth, customized approach are recruitment, training and then support services. These are at the heart of what we do, and Business Facilities has described us as “the gold standard” in state workforce development programs. Our proficiency in delivering these services has led to our ranking as the No. 1 state workforce training program for eight consecutive years.

Recruitment means identifying, capturing and delivering the right employees, through a variety of methods. Those could include job fairs, our Louisiana Job Connection online service and other activities. Training begins with identifying what those incoming employees need to know and crafting a training program specifically directed at their work product, then being able to get them up to speed rapidly. Finally, support services can help companies get their new employees ramped up quickly. This can include HR orientation, company culture, visuals—all of those things that aren’t necessarily training, but they are support services that help that company accomplish that mission.

BF: LED FastStart is customized for each company it works with. How do you develop the expertise for each new industry you engage?

PH: Every company asks this: “We’re making a new product that no one’s ever seen before. How do you have expertise in this area?” We do employ training professionals that have experience in specific industry sectors. That’s a big piece right there. Our expertise isn’t necessarily limited to specific processes in manufacturing or specific digital technologies or specific software packages, though.

Our expertise comes in training. Our people are experts in capturing process and knowledge and then being able to take that and turn that into an effective training. The way that we can do that is to partner with the subject-matter experts of the company who have the knowledge of that process as well, capture that and then turn around and deliver that. It’s a successful template for our approach to training.

BF: Does LED FastStart also play a role in talent attraction and pre-hire evaluations of candidate workers?

PH: Recruitment and selection are some of our most important selling points. Forty to 50 percent of what we do is recruitment and selection. We have integrated into LED FastStart our Louisiana Job Connection, which is a digital matching system for job seekers to help them connect to hundreds of employers offering thousands of jobs in Louisiana. In recent months, we have added more valuable services into it, such as occupational crosswalking for veterans, resume builders and custom landing pages and specific portals for individual companies. We are getting companies now that use Louisiana Job Connection almost exclusively to find the talent they need.

We are using Louisiana Job Connection for project-specific recruitment events, and even virtual recruitment events (virtual job fairs). It was an important aspect of the successful job fairs we conducted to help skilled energy workers find new jobs in other Louisiana industries after they had been displaced by the downturn in the oil and gas industry.

BF: What are the eligibility requirements for obtaining LED FastStart services?

PH: The program is targeted to companies in the areas of advanced and traditional manufacturing, digital media, headquarters and business operations, research and development, and warehousing and distribution. It’s a free service that we provide to qualifying companies operating in Louisiana.

Our criteria include minimum job thresholds that vary by industry sector. Manufacturers and distribution centers need to create at least 15 new, permanent jobs. A commitment of 50 new, permanent jobs is needed for digital media, headquarters, R&D companies and other service-related businesses.

LED FastStart is a discretionary incentive, and we evaluate each request prior any project announcement to verify that all eligibility requirement are met.

BF: Can you give us examples of some of the biggest LED FastStart success stories?

PH: For the General Dynamics Information Technology project in Shreveport, LED FastStart provided recruitment services and training. A significant part of that was facilitating the company’s partnership with Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State University, Grambling State University and Bossier Parish Community College, in identifying areas where they could enhance the coursework, overhaul programs and even add certificate programs as needed. The company hosts an annual educational summit with all of its education partners and FastStart to let everyone know what’s next, so we can adjust all of our services and products as needed to support their growth.

These partnerships with industry and higher education have become an important aspect of what we do. The state has invested millions of dollars in university and community/technical college programs across Louisiana to help ensure an appropriately skilled workforce for major projects in key industries. Among the most recent is at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where Boeing is working on the next generation of space travel rocketry, the Space Launch System. We collaborated with Nunez Community College nearby to establish an aerospace technology program, to meet the needs of Boeing and other manufacturers at the Michoud complex.