By Kevin Mills, Global Head of Government
The modern workplace requires new skills, and students and underemployed workers need access to flexible, affordable, and fast-tracked learning and career pathways to enter well-paying jobs in the new digital economy. In a recent Coursera survey, 53% of U.S. employers said finding applicants with the specific skills needed for the job was the biggest challenge they face when hiring recent graduates.
State higher education and workforce development systems will be crucial to addressing skilled talent shortages amid economic uncertainty, and new university and government-led initiatives in Louisiana offer an innovative model for states to provide learning pathways to in-demand jobs and remove barriers to career development.
Louisiana Tech and the University of Louisiana System: Creating college prep and professional development pathways for students, faculty, and staff
In 2021, Louisiana Tech University launched LA GEAR UP, an initiative administered by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) via the Louisiana Board of Regents that aims to increase the number of low-income high school students and graduates who succeed in post-secondary education. In partnership with 37 schools and 15 school districts, LA GEAR UP is offering free entry-level professional certificates from Google on Coursera to prepare students for college and career paths related to in-demand fields including IT Support, Data Analytics, and UX Design.
Now, Louisiana Tech University and the University of Louisiana System (ULS) are expanding access to Coursera certificates to all ULS faculty and staff as an extension of the ULS Bridging the Divide Professional Development Series.
“Through our partnership with Coursera and Google, we are able to provide support and opportunity for learners at multiple levels,” said Louisiana Tech Provost, Dr. Terry McConathy. “We are able to leverage the resource to recruit future students, provide added value for current students, and supplement professional development for our colleagues across the UL System interested in critical needs areas such as UX Design and Data Analytics.”
“Technology provides access to an overwhelming number of opportunities for personal and professional growth,” said ULS President, Jim Henderson. “We value lifelong learning and this partnership with Coursera opens the door to high quality professional development opportunities for the faculty and staff across our nine member institutions.”
The Louisiana Workforce Commission: Removing barriers to economic opportunity with broadband access and career training for underemployed workers
The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), a state government agency that administers programs designed to enhance workforce growth and provide family-sustaining jobs for Louisiana residents, is offering lifelong learning opportunities to Louisianians across the state. LWC is partnering with Coursera to launch “Tech Ready Louisiana,” a new statewide workforce development initiative providing free career training to thousands of Louisianans.
“Tech Ready Louisiana will take people from courses to careers,” said LWC Secretary Ava Cates, “Everything from learning Microsoft Office, to skills in the IT or healthcare industries. This is about giving Louisianians the opportunity to learn new, marketable skills to advance in their current job or get the career they’ve always wanted.”
The program includes Career Academy from Coursera, which prepares workers – even those without a college degree or prior work experience – for over 30 in-demand digital careers in roughly six to eight months when studying part-time. Louisianans can explore careers, develop key skills and competencies, build a portfolio of hands-on projects using actual workplace tools, and earn industry-recognized credentials from Google, IBM, Meta, Salesforce, Hubspot, and Intuit to help them land good jobs. Many of these credentials have ACE Credit Recommendation, which makes it easier for learners to earn credit towards a local degree program for the eligible certificates they complete.
In addition, LWC is opening up its American Job Centers (AJC) for people to access the online training if reliable internet access at home is an issue. According to a recent study, more than half of all Louisianians either don’t have access to or can’t afford high-speed internet, a challenge many Americans face keeping many out of the running for a growing number of remote work opportunities.
“We know Louisiana struggles when it comes to making broadband available and affordable for our people,” said Cates, “We have almost 60 American Job Centers and affiliate sites across the state available for people to come in and use reliable internet to complete these courses.”
Given the pace of digital transformation, many traditional university degree and workforce development programs often lack a strong connection to today’s in-demand jobs, the fast-changing skills landscape, and evolving employer expectations. By building stronger relationships between their college and career development programs and top companies, higher education and government systems can unlock new career opportunities for students and workers, diversify and expand talent pipelines for employers, and build a competitive state workforce to support the local economy.