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Date:June 26, 2008
Contact:Public Relations @ (225) 342-3035

Labor, partner agencies discuss workforce development reform

BOSSIER CITY — Louisiana Department of Labor Sec. Tim Barfield was joined today by partner agency representatives and stakeholders at Bossier Parish Community College to announce the passage of Gov. Jindal’s centerpiece legislation to reform workforce development in the state.

The comprehensive workforce redesign measures received overwhelming legislative support as well as strong support from both business and labor.

“This legislation gives us the framework to greatly improve the way we address the needs of businesses and job seekers,” Barfield said. “We intend for this integrated system to become the provider of workforce solutions for business and industry. Job seekers also will benefit from services that will be easier to access and from more and better job opportunities that should develop over time as the system is developed and implemented.”

The measures call for:

• Integrating workforce development and social support programs across agencies to provide one-door service for businesses and job seekers.

• Strengthening the role of community and technical colleges in workforce development.

• Quickly improving our ability to address workforce shortages in high-demand occupations.

• Improving our capacity to respond to new business or expansion opportunities.

• Creating a demand-driven system that ties workforce development to business and industry needs.

• Expanding the workforce to help fill nearly 100,000 job vacancies that are going wanting today.

The legislation transforms the Department of Labor into the Louisiana Workforce Commission to reflect its expanded mission. The agency will continue to administer the unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems.

As the Workforce Commission, the agency will play a more meaningful role in supporting the state’s economic development activities.

“By improving the alignment of workforce training and business needs, we can substantially improve our ability to attract and retain employers that will offer our citizens good-paying jobs and the potential for advancement,” Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said. “Our prospects always look for a skilled labor pool. These reforms help improve our state’s competitiveness in a highly responsive, effective way that will benefit both citizens and businesses.”

Many of the reforms are contained in HB 1104, for which $4.6 million has been appropriated for implementation in the first year. A companion bill, HB 1018, establishes the workforce training rapid response fund to allow the Community and Technical College System to respond more effectively to urgent workforce opportunities and challenges, aimed primarily at meeting priority workforce needs.

The Legislature also approved HCR 65 and SCR 46 which request that the Board of Regents consider the jobs forecast and cost of related training programs, recruitment and equipment when funding the community and technical colleges.

In addition, the executive budget and the general appropriations bill, HB1, address two other important components of the workforce redesign package, $3 million for the Department of Economic Development’s Fast Start Program and $4.5 million for the Department of Education to expand career and technical education opportunities for public school students. The Fast Start Program is aimed at producing turnkey workforce solutions for specific new business opportunities or expansions of existing Louisiana businesses.

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