How Lake Charles is prepping for historic workforce challenges


Some would say it’s a good problem to have. Southwest Louisiana has about $44 billion in industrial investment under construction and more is coming down the pike. This, along with the expected retirement of 30% of current industrial workers in the next 10 years, will likely create historic challenges for workforce development.

Recognizing an opportunity, The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance in Lake Charles launched the “Industry Works” communications campaign in 2018 to create job awareness among area residents and provide an easier way to tap into career opportunities. The initiative is a collaboration with Phillips 66 Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex, Louisiana Economic Development and the Regional Economic Alliance of Louisiana.

R. B. Smith of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance

10/12 Industry Report sat down with R. B. Smith, vice president of business and workforce development for the Alliance, to discuss the campaign.

How does Industry Works hope to accomplish its goals?

It uses electronic media such as websites, social media and television advertising to direct interested people to the Industry Works webpage. This site features a series of short videos featuring actual industrial workers from a variety of backgrounds giving their personal testimonies. It also lists the local industries that employ qualified workers, and lists training providers in the region that offer workforce development educational and training programs for industrial jobs.

How crucial is the involvement of Phillips 66? And others?

Phillips 66 provided the initial funding to develop and publish the media for Industry Works. Additionally, several Phillips 66 employees graciously volunteered to appear in the videos to explain the jobs they do with personal testimonies on how to navigate the career pathway and qualify for employment. Without their involvement, the campaign would not have launched as seamlessly as it did. Phillips 66’s private funds were matched to public funds through a Louisiana Economic Development (LED) program. These additional funds— along with economic development funds from the Alliance Foundation—financed the project.

What has been achieved so far?

Data analytics on the number of visits and click-throughs generated from other sites indicated that the campaign was successfully reaching several demographics in the population. We hope to expand this collaboration in 2019 to sustain and possibly expand the campaign.

How will Industry Works help meet future demand?

As the second wave of industrial expansion is expected to begin in 2019, the Industry Works campaign needs to continue. We estimate that between $20 billion to $25 billion in new capital investment will occur in this second wave of construction, creating thousands of new jobs in the region.  This, combined with the impact of an aging workforce, means that the workforce development pipeline must continue to be fed if these high demand, high skill, high wage jobs will go to local people.