Louisiana sets the standard for high school and college craft training programs
This blog post was originally published on Breaking Ground: the NCCER Blog, and was re-posted with permission.
As the first educational institutions to become NCCER Accredited Training Sponsors, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) were early role models in offering standardized, industry-driven craft training in secondary and postsecondary schools. Adopting NCCER’s curricula not only provided Louisiana students with viable pathways to rewarding careers, but it also offered a pipeline for bringing well-qualified craft professionals into the state’s expanding construction industry.
The LDOE oversees the state’s public education system for kindergarten through 12th grade and offers NCCER training in 212 high schools. In 2013-2014, there were nearly 450 active, NCCER-certified instructors in Louisiana high schools and more than 3,000 high school students enrolled in NCCER craft training programs. Meanwhile, LCTCS is comprised of 13 community and technical colleges, with more than 2,500 students enrolled in NCCER programs and between 300 and 400 NCCER-certified instructors delivering training.
Tim Johnson serves as director of governmental relations for NCCER and has been involved with craft training in Louisiana for more than two decades. As a former executive director of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Pelican Chapter in Baton Rouge, Johnson worked with LDOE and LCTCS when the two organizations first started using NCCER. Since ABC Pelican Chapter was one of the very first NCCER Accredited Training Sponsors, NCCER craft training was initially offered in the state’s high schools and colleges under Pelican Chapter’s sponsorship. The success of these early craft programs inspired both LDOE and LCTCS to become NCCER Accredited Training Sponsors in 2005. Since then, the two organizations have worked closely with one another and with industry partners to provide a seamless path for students to become trained and employed. Johnson says this collaboration has been so effective that it serves as a model for other state educational systems.
“The LDOE and LCTCS worked together to eliminate duplication of coursework and ensure the matriculation between high school and college is seamless,” said Johnson. “There was also great support from contractors and industrial facilities, and the alignment between public and private entities in this state is more viable than most other places I’ve been. Ultimately, we’ve developed a real model for how this all can work.”
John Easley, a former career and technical education coordinator with LCTCS, says that the industry’s involvement was one of the factors that initially made NCCER curricula so appealing. “Before NCCER, craft curricula were developed by instructors from different program areas,” said Easley. “This worked, but the most important piece of the puzzle was missing: meaningful involvement by employers. NCCER provided industry involvement, which gave students the skill sets to best match industry needs.”
By directly aligning high school and college instruction with the industry’s workforce needs, NCCER’s craft programs offer students well-defined career pathways. According to William Seaman III, director of skilled labor initiatives and NCCER sponsor representative at LCTCS, such highly focused training places graduates of craft programs at an advantage over those who graduate from other courses of study.
“By embedding NCCER in degree programs, students have a straightforward career path with the credentials and hands on skills industry requires,” said Seaman. “If they want to work in a plant, NCCER offers a way to get there right out of school. Some other degree programs just give a diploma without adequate preparation for a job.”
Furthermore, NCCER constantly updates its curricula, ensuring that high schools and colleges are providing students with the skill sets that are in the highest demand. According to B.J. Bertucci, an education program consultant and NCCER sponsor representative with LDOE, keeping pace with the industry’s latest needs is a win-win for students and employers alike.
“NCCER continuously revises its curricula, so students and high schools are assured they’re focusing on the most updated skills,” said Bertucci. “And Louisiana employers have emphatically reported that students who earn NCCER credentials are the type of entry-level hires they value most.”
As NCCER Accredited Training Sponsors, LDOE and LCTCS are able to meet Louisiana’s workforce demands by training and preparing residents for construction careers within the state. Monty Sullivan, president of LCTCS, is proud of the state’s partnership with NCCER.
“The enormous workforce demands for skilled craft workers in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast requires us to produce more graduates in high wage, high demand construction fields,” said Sullivan. “As a result, this past year, we awarded more than 4,600 Level 1 NCCER certifications. This production is directly associated with our collaboration with NCCER and commitment to meeting our state’s workforce needs.”
About the Author
Amy King is the communications manager at NCCER. Her role includes being the managing editor of NCCER’s biannual magazine, The Cornerstone, and its weekly blog, Breaking Ground. Amy has 10 years of marketing and public relations experience, including email, social media and grassroots marketing, promotions, event planning and writing press releases and feature articles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida.