Partnering to Double Louisiana’s Energy Workforce

April 29, 2024

Enabling Community and Technical Colleges to Invest

In January, LSU led a team of more than 50 education, industry, government, community and capital partners to win the largest and most competitive grant ever awarded by the National Science Foundation—$160 million—to expand Louisiana’s energy industry.

LSU’s team, called FUEL, works to help double the state’s current energy workforce, including by enabling Louisiana’s community and technical colleges to invest in people and programs that are closely aligned with industry needs.

“Our college has always been affiliated with advanced manufacturing to provide skilled employees to work in the facilities right in our backyard,” said Quintin Taylor, chancellor of River Parishes Community College, a FUEL partner with four campuses along the Mississippi River where most of the state’s energy and chemical manufacturing plants are located.

Since August, the college operates an 80-foot distillation unit on its Gonzales campus to train students on both traditional and new energy technologies. Further downriver, FUEL partner Nunez Community College continues to invest in a new wind curriculum for turbine technicians with options ranging from certificates to technical diplomas to associate degrees.

“We’re diversifying; we’re not replacing,” said Cherie Kay LaRocca, vice chancellor for education, training and student success at Nunez Community College. “We have several refineries in our backyard and will continue to support that workforce pipeline. So, it’s not about taking away, but adding to the energy conversation.”

LSU Eunice is retooling its one-year, hands-on chemical technician program to allow students increased access to $80,000 salaries and secure careers.

Process technology students at River Parishes Community College

Process technology students at River Parishes Community College, an LSU and FUEL partner, train to be refinery and chemical industry operators in a lower-carbon energy future.

– Elsa Hahne/LSU

“This is not just a project. It’s a movement that will impact generations, pull families and communities out of poverty and meet the workforce needs of the local energy sector of today and tomorrow. It’s a strategic move.”

Theron Williams, Shell Americas Learning Solutions Manager for the U.S. Gulf Coast, on community colleges and LSU’s FUEL team enabling closer alignment between education and industry