THIBODAUX – Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, president of Nicholls State University, pledged alongside other University of Louisiana System presidents Thursday, March 27, to address Louisiana’s workforce needs by targeting a substantial number of new graduates each year in some of the state’s critical shortage areas.
Hulbert and his colleagues signed a sweeping agreement that the UL System will generate 2,400 additional graduates by 2012 – including 375 in education, 330 in health care, 115 in engineering and 440 in business. The agreement also pledges to reduce the average time it takes for students to graduate from six to five years and track graduate performance in Louisiana’s workforce.
“This agreement represents the commitment of higher education to the economic well-being of Louisiana,” Hulbert said. “It reflects an exciting initiative and significant opportunity for service to the region.”
The agreement was part of a second-annual, day-long forum in which national and state education leaders, college presidents, legislators and others discussed the issues surrounding students’ access to college and their success at achieving a degree.
Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, affirmed the aggressive goals.
“We’ve talked about accountability for a long time. We have it in K-12, but this ratchets it up further. It’s about the workforce but also about how we are trying to transform our state to focus on knowledge-based jobs and a knowledge-based economy.”The most recent Louisiana Department of Labor statistics show 981 vacancies in education, 3,140 in engineering, 2,379 in business and 9,484 in health care.
“This is so timely,” said state Representative Freddie Mills, a pharmacy graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe. “I just came from a meeting at the Department of Health and Hospitals where we discussed the state’s health care worker shortage. We need to continue growing and keep our professionals here in Louisiana, and I want to support your initiative any way I can.”