We worked toward the gold standard and, in fact, our reforms now rank us above all of other states in disclosure, and among the best in almost every other category. We sent a clear signal to the nation Louisiana is not only open for business, but we are serious about long-ranging, far-reaching reform so our young people don’t have to leave home to pursue their dreams.
We have accelerated the elimination of harmful taxes on Louisiana’s families and businesses that have deterred investment in our state and the creation of good paying jobs for our citizens. And we made smart investments in priorities like roads, bridges, ports, and coastal restoration to help alleviate problems that have plagued our state’s infrastructure for years.
However, we must continue to push forward. We must continue our momentum, and continue to enact policies and laws that will make Louisiana the envy of the rest of the nation. As we enter the regular session of the Legislature, we have the opportunity to revamp our workforce develop system in our state in order to create a better educated, trained, and highly responsive workforce.
We will not rest until we have created a New Louisiana where every young person has an opportunity to get a high-paying job, start a great career, get a quality education, access the best health care, and raise a family in a safe community. We cannot be satisfied until our workforce is the most skilled and desired in the world. We will make Louisiana the best place in the world, and the most attractive place for businesses to invest, and for families to prosper.
As of today, we already have nearly 100,000 job opportunities across our state, many in the growing industries of transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, and construction. However, businesses across the state are struggling to fill these positions while many of our best and brightest continue to leave for Atlanta or Dallas.
We must work together with businesses and potential workers across the state in order to guarantee a trained, efficient workforce. We must partner with high schools, technical schools, and local communities to be as effective as possible in training our workers. We must match the needs of employers to our training programs, and guarantee companies their hires will be trained and ready to work on day one, or we will retrain them for free.
Additionally, we need to change our higher education funding formula to reward high-demand, high-cost programs. It makes no sense for technical colleges to make money training nail technicians, while losing money training the nurses and welders that are so desperately needed by their communities.
We will also establish the “Fast Start Program” so the state can swiftly respond to the needs of employers across the state. The Fast Start Program will provide customized workforce solutions for businesses and enable Louisiana workers to attend expedited classes and training so they can more immediately meet the changing needs of our economy.
We must also tear down the existing Department of Labor, and rebuild it in a fashion that targets the needs of businesses and families across the state, not the whims of bureaucrats. The new, improved Louisiana Workforce Commission will be geared towards a 21st century global workforce, and not the needs of 20 or 50 years ago.
Fourth, we must implement a plan to expand the career options of high school students by allowing them early participation in community and technical college programs. Many of our children drop out of high school, without an idea of what career paths await them. Sometimes they struggle to remain in the workforce at all because they are not aware of the training options and opportunities available to them.
I love when our children go to college, but we must realize not all of our students will attend a university. We must provide a path to opportunity for these students through dual enrollment programs beginning when they are still in high school. This will not only allow students to receive valuable training at a younger age, it will also showcase the many options available to them with the proper training.
Finally, we must recruit and train new workers to fill the nearly one-hundred thousand existing, vacant jobs we have today. We must also reach out to those Louisianians currently outside of our workforce who can match the demands of our businesses but may lack the exact skills they need or are unaware of the many opportunities for their employment.
I am looking forward to working with the Legislature to create a properly trained, incredibly agile and focused workforce in our state. We have another ambitious agenda before us, and it is critical that we work together in order to ensure its passage. We have jobs, we have workers, we must make them sync up for the good of our economy and the good of our people.
(Bobby Jindal was sworn in as Governor of Louisiana on January 14, 2008. He was elected Governor of Louisiana on October 20, 2007, winning 60 of 64 parishes. He attended Brown University where he graduated with honors in biology and public policy. Following his graduation from Brown he attended Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar.)