Forster brings good news to River Parishes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / June 14, 2000

LAPLACE – Despite the lack of a state budget from the recent legislative session, Secretary of Labor Garey Forster had some good news for local business leaders at the monthly meeting of the River Region Chamber of Commerce.

At the recent luncheon/meeting at Bull’s Corner, Forster told the audience that employment in Louisiana is doing great.

“We have a record-high employment and a record-high number of employers,” Forster said, “and 44 out of 64 parishes have record-low unemployment.”Despite this rosy picture, Forster said to maintain this level of employment, businesses and employers must start investing in training entry-level employees.

“It is hard to produce a large number of top-notch employees on demand,” said Forster, “but we can produce lots and lots of entry-level workers.”In order for businesses to succeed and for unemployment to remain low, Forster said work-forces must remain intact. The only way to do that is totrain this large contingent of entry-level employees so that they can move up the ladder of promotions and avoid lay-offs.

“If a worker gets trained and promoted,” Forster said, “they have less of a chance of being laid-off, which means less of a tax burden to the business.”In order to accomplish this training the Louisiana Department of Labor has instituted the Incumbent Worker Training Program which will pump $50 million dollars of training into Louisiana businesses.

“This is the most exciting thing I have ever worked on,” Forster told the room of business men and women.

The IWTP will pay trade schools for customized training for employees of any company that wants to start a training course. Not only will the Departmentof Labor pay for the training, but it will pay for new equipment for the trade or technical college where the training is taking place. The only stipulationthe state puts on the employer is that the newly-trained worker gets a raise after the training.

The program has increased its size from $6 million last year to $50 million this year, and Forster said the department plans to train over 7,400 entry- level workers this year. This will produce 2,700 new jobs across the statewith an average pay raise of 19 percent.

Forster urged employers and businesses to start training their entry-level employees using IWTP money. He reminded the audience that it is theirbusiness taxes paying for the program and that they should take advantage of it. In order for IWTP to succeed, businesses must use the program.”It’s like buying a new car,” Forster said, “and then leaving it on the showroom floor. It sure looks nice, but it isn’t doing anything.”Forster said each of the state’s eight labor regions will get about $4 million of the IWTP money. Combined with the welfare-to-work and other statetraining programs, each region should get a total of $14 million to train workers.

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