Changing the landscape through industry and education partnerships

student working with electrical equipment

Many industries today are impacted by a growing shortage of skilled workers. This challenge demands new approaches to address an issue that potentially impacts business growth. An article I read describes the “skills gap” as “a significant gap between an organization’s skill needs and the current capabilities of its workforce.” How can a business expect to remain competitive and grow when the workforce or recruiting pool lacks the required skills? It can’t. In my previous post, I shared one of the PRIDE Industries’ initiatives to address the growing skills gap issue by employing people with disabilities, an untapped resource. Training this new, emerging workforce requires creativity and collaboration.

I am currently working with Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC) headquartered in Alexandria, Louisiana and its seven different campuses. The college is located near PRIDE Industries’ large facilities maintenance contracts at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Fort Polk is one of five locations where PRIDE Industries provides Integrated Facility Services, such as facility maintenance. The partnership leverages industry, education and training in a specialized program to create a pool of qualified workers who just happen to have disabilities. The process starts either through PRIDE recruitment or CLTCC marketing to inform possible students and other agencies of the program.  Students then enroll and receive training from CLTCC.  And then local industry does the hiring. Talks to develop similar programs are underway at Burlington County, New Jersey, the Burlington County College (BCC) and Burlington County Institute of Technology (BCIT). All are located near PRIDE’s facilities contract at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

PRIDE Industries achieved National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) accreditation in 2014. NCCER provides a standardized training process for craft assessment and certification. PRIDE Industries provides NCCER-certified training at five of its contract sites including Fort Bliss, Fort Polk, Fort Rucker, LA-AFB, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The curriculum is designed to offer hands-on technical training to build a safe, productive, and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. Most importantly, certification supports the professional development of individuals with disabilities working at PRIDE.

PRIDE’s General Maintenance Worker program was developed based on the National Center for Construction Education and Reach (NCCER) curriculum. We are seeking educational partners to expand the program’s reach. The partnership involves the creation of institution-specific programs designed to build and enhance the technical trade skills of individuals with disabilities. It consists of two phases. The first phase provides an introduction to trades such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, painting, and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC).  Conducted at the college level, it takes approximately one year to complete. The second phase continues the education and training, while including a one-year internship with PRIDE Industries, providing critical hands-on experience. An optional third phase consists of two years of an apprentice type program, continuing the educational training component with the educational institution and combining on-the-job experience with an employer (not necessarily, PRIDE Industries).

We are focused on establishing partnerships that leverage various funding sources to create opportunities in trades where qualified workers are in demand. Funding sources beyond the educational institution may include state departments of rehabilitation or community, state or federal grants.

The development of human capital is important to any business’ success. By partnering with local education and training institutions, and organizations skilled in the vocational training of people with disabilities, your business can grow an untapped and highly loyal workforce to meet your competitive challenges.

Please feel free to contact me directly with your thoughts and questions. I would love to hear from you.

Lonny Wright