Robottom: Workforce development keys St. John’s future

Published 12:01 am Saturday, July 16, 2016

St. John the Baptist Parish is poised to ride the wave of industrial development targeting access to the Mississippi River.

In the June 27, 2016, issue of County News, St. John was one of five counties identified with the largest share of their economy supported by International Exports in 2014.

With approximately 61 percent of the parish’s economy driven by international exports, we must direct and control development rather than letting it control us.

Presenting a clear vision for our community, supporting education and training and establishing clear expectations are critical. All will help prepare our residents, students and business owners to take advantage of the vast opportunities that lie ahead.

My office is committed to working with Superintendent of Schools Kevin George and Dean of South Central Louisiana Technical College Penny Freeman on outreach and recruitment efforts at our schools.  We must present accurate and factual information to our young people and their parents about future opportunities and the requirements for skilled workers.

Working closely with members of the Workforce Development Commission, training programs for individuals seeking additional skills, laid off, unemployed or dislocated are currently available. Economic Development Director Jerry Jones and Health and Human Services Director Rhonda Lemons are the two members of my administrative staff charged with leading this effort.

I had the privilege of joining Technical College officials, industry representatives and a host of government officials for the announcement of a $1 million grant for a new outdoor welding area by Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Economic Development Administration Jay Williams.

This new advancement will allow hundreds of students to gain access to a state-of-the-art welding program.

While we commend the South Central Technical College students and officials, as well as the elected officials and partners on their collaborative effort, our work is not complete. We must support programs that provide education, training and real-world experience that enables students to walk out the doors into careers.

Natalie Robottom is St. John the Baptist Parish President. She can be reached at