By Sherri L. Jackson
It’s one thing to talk about it among your family and friends. It’s quite another thing to hear the startling statistics from people who specialize in crunching numbers and making sense of them.
And to hear Jim Clinton, Cenla Advantage Partnership’s CEO, make the statement, “Cenla lacks knowledge,” puts the ham hock in my red beans.
Before you go any further in this column, I need you to brace yourself. OK. Here it goes: more than half of Cenla’s high school graduates in 2007 did not go on to a two-year or four-year school.
Specifically speaking, 54.7 percent of students leaving their high schools with a high school diploma didn’t feel the need to further their education.
Can you see why I cringed when representatives from Regional Technology Strategies presented these statistics at a summit held at the Rapides Foundation Tuesday, Dec. 16.
I almost shouted, “Lawd, have mercy,” until I came to myself and realized I was among some really educated, smart people.
The Rapides Foundation sought an analysis of Cenla’s workforce to determine if employees have the necessary skills to do the kinds of jobs that are plentiful in Central Louisiana.
Apparently not since 83 percent of the 140 employers who responded to a survey believe that less than half of the job applicants are qualified for the jobs for which they are applying.
Let me just say if I didn’t have a few journalistic skills and didn’t publish my own newspaper, I would not be qualified for jobs relating to construction, health services and wood, all of which are king in Central Louisiana.
Still, I wonder about residents and the culture of a region that doesn’t see the need for anything past high school. I could understand if these were the 1970s and 1980s when one didn’t need anything past a high school dipolma to hit the oil rigs and work offshore.
As I past down Alexandria’s streets and see people hanging on the corners and in run-down looking convenience store parking lots, I wonder if perhaps some of these make up the number of potential employees who could fill positions.
If they had the training employers need to fill the 24,000 new and replacement jobs that’s expected over the next five years, would they do the work.
Because I’m no prophet I can’t answer that rhetorical question. But I can say that it seems Cenla Advantage Partnership is moving toward an end that would solve a lot of problems relating to training and employment.
Cenla should be proud of its various educational offerings that seek to produce well-rounded people, but if the study is true, those offerings aren’t meeting the needs of all of its customers.
Pushing for a community college that would provide students, employees and employers with the needed skills to do the available work seems to be smart and ideal to prevent us from ever having to say again, “Cenla lacks knowledge.”