Governor Jindal Signs Legislation to Create New Workforce Incentive Fund

LSU President & Chancellor F. King Alexander said, “Signing the WISE Bill into law represents … the opportunity for our state to keep its talented young people and for our students to have a job waiting for them when they graduate.”  Eddy Perez/Communications & University Relations

“Signing the WISE Bill into law represents … the opportunity for our state to keep its talented young people and for our students to have a job waiting for them when they graduate.”
–LSU President & Chancellor F. King Alexander
Photo courtesy Eddy Perez / LSU Communications & University Relations

BATON ROUGE – On Thursday, June 19, Gov. Bobby Jindal joined leaders from higher education systems across Louisiana to sign HB 1033 by Speaker Chuck Kleckley to create a new higher education workforce incentive initiative and increase higher education funding by dedicating $40 million to better prepare Louisiana students to compete in the new global economy. The new incentive fund will be called the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund – or WISE Fund. The legislation is included in the governor’s 2014 Legislative Package.

Jindal also highlighted an increase of more than $148 million for higher education that was included in the FY15 budget, a 6.91 percent increase from last year. This total includes WISE and $6.5 million in additional system operational support for Southern and Grambling.

The money in the WISE fund will be made available to state research institutions that produce nationally recognized commercial research and to state colleges and universities that partner with private industry to produce graduates with high-demand degrees and certificates, and enable them to link their coursework to industry needs and projected workforce demands.

Jindal said, “I am honored to sign this bill, which allows us to invest further in higher education and prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. Our higher education institutions have already done an incredible job over the past six years instituting a number of reforms to help more of our students graduate. These results are a testament to the incredible work of our faculty and students at schools across Louisiana.

LSU has already shown success with public-private partnerships with EA Sports and IBM; the WISE Fund will pave the way for more of those opportunities.  Ernie Ballard/Communications & University Relations

LSU has already shown success with public-private partnerships with EA Sports and IBM; the WISE Fund will pave the way for more of those opportunities.
Photo courtesy Ernie Ballard / LSU Communications & University Relations

“The reforms are working, but it’s time expand on our efforts – and we are doing that with this bill today. We are in the midst of an economic renaissance in Louisiana. Since 2008, we have announced economic development wins that are resulting in more than 80,000 new jobs and more than $50 billion in private capital investment. Because of these job wins, more people are employed than ever before in Louisiana.

“Tens of thousands of jobs are now in the pipeline that must be filled, and our next challenge is to ensure we have the skilled workforce to fill these jobs of the future. Economists have recently said they have never seen an industrial expansion like the one under way in Louisiana, but have also warned that we must do a better job training skilled workers that will be needed to fill the demand for jobs at the major industrial and high tech projects coming to Louisiana. That’s why our top priority is making sure we have the resources to prepare our students and train them for the jobs of the future.”

The governor said he sat down with higher education leaders before the legislative session to discuss the thousands of jobs being brought to Louisiana, and the leaders came up with the idea for a workforce incentive fund. The program will reinvest new dollars to make sure that Louisiana has the qualified workforce to take these jobs, and it will strengthen the critical linkage between college coursework and employment needs in Louisiana.

LSU President & Chancellor F. King Alexander said, “Signing the WISE Bill into law represents more than just historic cooperation between state government, industry leaders, and higher education officials. It represents opportunity … the opportunity for our state to keep its talented young people and for our students to have a job waiting for them when they graduate. Furthermore, it represents the opportunity for a better future for all Louisianans through a healthier and more varied economy. We are all grateful for the support of our Governor and state legislators — support that allows us to continue our mission of providing solutions to the problems facing our state.”

President of the Southern University System Dr. Ron Mason said, “Southern University looks forward to working with our partners to deliver graduates ready to strengthen Louisiana’s ever-changing workforce. Higher education and industry working together bodes well for the future of our State.”

University of Louisiana System President Sandra K. Woodley said, “Today’s signing of the WISE bill demonstrates an uncommon act of unity among leaders in this state who worked collaboratively to create a visionary strategy that will connect higher education to the emerging needs of Louisiana’s new economy. We applaud the Governor and our legislative leaders for investing in this very important work.”

“With our state’s economy flourishing, workforce demands have never been more prevalent,” said Monty Sullivan, president of Louisiana’s Community and Technical Colleges. “Through the WISE Fund, Governor Jindal and the Legislature have made a significant investment in the people of Louisiana. Today’s signing marks the beginning of a targeted investment strategy to grow the workforce of tomorrow.  Louisiana’s community and technical colleges have already begun targeting resources toward and increasing productivity in high demand occupation program areas.”

“The Board of Regents is proud of the unanimous passage of the WISE Fund this past legislative session and today, the higher education community is elated to stand with the Governor on the signing of this bill into law,” said Regents Chairman, W. Clinton Rasberry. “This work has been a catalyst in bringing together higher education and business and industry leaders to address the human capital needs of this state, and the Board of Regents remains committed to the coordination and oversight of the WISE Fund. At no time in history has workforce development been more important, and the WISE Fund will be a solid foundation for our institutions to build upon. It is through education and sound policy, as exemplified in the WISE Fund, that we will meet the workforce demands, and achieve unprecedented economic growth – building a stronger Louisiana for all.”

The WISE Fund will allocate funding through a performance-based formula that rewards and incentivizes the degrees that occupational forecasting and industry have shown are the most employable and the most in demand.  To receive these funds, institutions will have to partner with private industry by recruiting at least a 20 percent private match in cash or in kind, such as technology and equipment.

Each institution will present a business plan that will demonstrate how the funds will be invested to reach the number of degrees we need as a state to fill the jobs we have now and in the next few years. And every year, each institution will be held accountable for reaching their goals to produce those degrees. Using data-driven predictive modeling with actual numbers from business and industry, experts were able to figure out how to predict how many and what level of degrees needed to meet workforce demands.

Jindal said this collaboration between Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and the leaders of higher education has created a targeted investment strategy that spends dollars on the degrees needed to for the jobs coming to Louisiana.

These partnerships are already in the work at Louisiana’s colleges and universities. IBM has entered into a partnership with the LSU School of Engineering. As part of IBM’s project in downtown Baton Rouge, LSU committed to triple its computer science graduates in five years, which will place the LSU Computer Science program in the top 10-15 nationally for the number of B.S. degrees in computer science awarded nationally. The College will also expand its computer science programs and curriculum innovation, as LSU students will benefit from internship opportunities and more jobs upon graduation, keeping the best and brightest in the state.

In the UL System, LED recently partnered with UNO and GE Capital for the creation of the GE Capital’s Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program (SWEAP). By the end of 2015, GE Capital plans to hire 40 UNO students enrolled in the computer science program in apprentice positions.  SWEAP provides students at UNO with specialized training, experience and mentorship opportunities which will set them apart from other graduates.

Bossier Parish Community College recently received a $750,000 investment from EnCana Oil & Gas and Shell E&P to create an Oil & Gas Production Technology program.  In New Orleans, Delgado partnered with 45 regional manufacturing and construction firms such as Laitram, Cornerstone, Shell, and Bollinger, in addition to UNO, Southeastern, and Nicholls, to produce 1,500 qualified graduates over four years for the booming manufacturing sector.

Southern University recently partnered with Genesis Energy to create a $100,000 scholarship fund, invest $25,000 in Southern’s Civil and Engineering labs, and help Southern ensure its curricula were aligned with the workforce needs of Genesis, among other things.