More than 175 newly trained workers in the skilled crafts will graduate tonight from a two-year program offered by the Pelican Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors at its Baton Rouge Training Center.
The graduates are the latest batch of skilled workers to join a Capital Region workforce that is slowly beginning to meet the demand for trained workers in welding, pipefitting, millwrighting and instrumentation.
Just a few years ago, the need for skilled workers was overwhelming and threatened to derail a projected $100 billion industrial construction boom.
More recently, the demand has leveled out, in part because the first wave of mega construction projects has been completed.
However, the recent shift in demand is also because of both public and private sector initiatives to steer more young people to the skilled trades, says David Helveston, president and CEO of the ABC Pelican Chapter.
“With Louisiana Calling and Jump Start there has certainly been a lot of great work to destigmatize the skilled trades and interest more people in those fields,” Helveston says. “Certainly, they’ve laid the groundwork and we’re seeing the fruits of those efforts.”
Louisiana Calling is an industry-led reeducation campaign that was launched five years ago. It was designed to destigmatize the skilled crafts and steer young people who are not bound for a four-year college to the trades.
Jump Start is a state program that steers high school juniors and seniors toward craft training programs they can take while still in high school.
Halveston says he believes such programs are among the reasons the ABC’s Baton Rouge Training Center has a waiting list. Four busloads of students from Ascension Parish are coming to the center every day for training programs.
Those high school students won’t be among the graduates who receive certificates at tonight’s ceremony. The high school students attend the center during the day. Tonight’s graduates have completed high school and are already working in plants and factories at low level jobs. They’ve been attending the training center at night for two years to improve their skills, which makes their graduation particularly poignant, Halveston says.
“They’ll be finishing tonight with a heightened skill set and bringing those skills to the workplace,” he says. “They’ll have their families with them and some will walk across the stage with babies in their arms. It’s impressive.”