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Northeast Louisiana Workforce Development Summit Discusses Business and Education

Tim McIlveene
The NELA Workforce Development Summit aims to work on solutions for the challenges faced in the business industry through partnerships between education and business.

The Northeast Louisiana Workforce Development Summit is Tuesday, April 24 at 8:30 a.m. The goal of the summit is to build and strengthen relationships between the business industry and education in the Northeast Louisiana region.

The summit begins with opening remarks from Courtney Hornsby, the president of the West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce. Afterward, speakers Larry Alexander of the State Department of Education and Paul Helton of the Louisiana Economic Development are presenting the "Importance of Partnerships."

"It's going to take partnerships to meet the challenges and achieve the community objectives that we have here in our region," says Dennis Epps, Chancellor of Louisiana Delta Community College. "We can see employers trying to find the skilled and knowledgeable people they need to hire, and we can see that no one entity is going to be able to solve this problem alone."

The first panel is "Today's Market; Tomorrow's Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities in a Dynamic Labor Market." The panel is made up of people from the business industry in our area. According to ATMOS Energy Public Affairs Manager Ann Hayward, the goal of the panel is to discuss what business and industry need and how education and business can meet each other's needs. 

The second panel is "New Models for Community Involvement in K-12 Education." "We're really looking at what we need to be doing in a K-12 environment to begin preparing young people for their futures," says Epps. "This is a great opportunity for a diverse panel of educators to talk about the challenges they face in meeting those larger regional challenges for a stronger workforce."

After lunch, Keynote Speaker Phillip May, President and CEO of Entergy Louisiana is touching on the topics of diversity and inclusion. He is discussing how many large employers in the NELA region hire employees from all around the nation and world, as well as how that diversity is embraced as an asset to bettering the market in the NELA region.

It's really all about building the relationships between business and education. Ann Hayward

Why does Northeast Louisiana need a summit like this? "We want to walk away continuing partnerships and building new partnerships," answers Ann Hayward. "We hope the business community can realize that there are more resources they can provide to students, such as internships, guest speakers, and workspace tours, which help students discover their options. Hopefully, we can go forward with the next steps." Part of the "next steps" process includes taking up audience suggestions on notecards for how business and education can help each other.

Panelists for "Today's Market; Tomorrow's Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities in a Dynamic Labor Market" are Jeff Hargrove of Graphic Packaging, Tania Hilburn of JPMorgan Chase, Jay Mulhern of Express Employment Professionals, and Jonathan Phillips of University Health. The moderator is Ron Berry of ULM.

Panelists for "New Models for Community Involvement in K-12 Education" are Superintendent of Jackson Parish Schools David Claxton, Matt Dickerson of Monroe City Schools, Angela Jenkins of Ouachita Parish Schools, Superintendent of West Carroll Parish Schools Richie Strong, and Angie White of North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP). Don Schillinger of Louisiana Tech University is the moderator.

The Northeast Louisiana Workforce Development Summit is Tuesday, April 24 at the West Monroe Convention Center from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration is from 8-8:30 a.m. More information is available here.