Lafayette Parish Students Earn Career and Technical Education

Recently, the Lafayette Parish School System celebrated the achievements of their students earning certifications or collegiate technical education diplomas through the system’s partnership with South Louisiana Community College while also looking ahead to the upcoming school year’s tenacious mission, as per this feature article from the Acadiana Advocate.

For years, the W.D. & Mary Baker Smith Career Center has served LPSS public high school students as an extension of their base school where they are allowed to attend the Career Center for three hours per day taking technical and career classes in automotive, cosmetology, culinary, medical, industrial technology, and welding programs.

Recently, a recognition ceremony celebrated over a dozen 2022 students from the school’s automotive, welding, and culinary programs earning certifications or collegiate technical diplomas through South Louisiana Community College, but the event was also indicative of an ongoing aim to infuse both pride and prestige along with the skills-based, technical curriculum

During the 2021-2022 school year, approximately 400 students had traveled to the W.D. & Mary Baker Smith Career Center from their base schools in order to spend a portion of their school day learning from and participating in one of the 11 career and technical programs available at the school.

These programs offer students a tremendous “leg up” in seeking a post-secondary education or job; for instance, those students who choose to begin the automotive, culinary, or welding programs as high school sophomores will have the opportunity to earn a Technical Diploma from SLCC upon graduating high school, thus putting them well on their way towards earning an associate’s degree.

The 2022 Recognition Ceremony and signing event both celebrated students’ success in their individual programs while also recognizing their feats as they signed on with future employers from the Lafayette area. Of those employers were: Abendroth Paint and Body, Acadiana Mazda, Arceneaux Ford, AutoZone, Peck’s Precision Lawn Care, Ross Tire and Service, Rotolo’s Pizzeria in Carencro, Service Auto Air, Sicily’s Pizza, Star’s Bake Shop, Super 1 Deli, Theriot Fabrication & Welding Custom Boats, Top Cars Collision Center, Utility and Industrial Supply, and Veronica’s Cafe.

Not only did the event celebrate these students’ hard work they’ve put in toward their futures, but the celebration also recognized the students of the year in each program as well as students graduating from SLCC with a technical diploma that’s based on dual enrollment credits that they’ve earned at the Career Center.

LPSS Superintendent Irma Trosclair addressed the honored students by saying, “we are so excited to celebrate these skilled and talented students and acknowledge their accomplishments. It is our goal to highlight the importance of career and technical education. The skills and credentials students are gaining at the Career Center are important to the students and are also important to the Lafayette community. LPSS will continue to promote career and technical education to graduate workforce ready young men and women.”

Principal of the W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center Dr. Holly Boffy, who also serves on the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, was also present in highlighting the importance of these programs in light of the broader community falsely believing that skills and trade-based jobs are “less than.”

Dr. Boffy disproved the stigma by saying, “It doesn’t feel less when I’m in Louisiana in the middle of the summer and my A/C is not working. All of a sudden HVAC is the most important industry on the planet. I think where we’ve failed as a society is to recognize that all people have gifts, and we fail to give people pathways to use their gifts. That’s what we’re doing here — we’re giving people pathways to careers that are going to help run our community.”

Recently, Principal Boffy guested on Discover Lafayette’s podcast where she both shared “ the school’s mission and new programming being offered in the upcoming 2022-23 school year, such as the implementation of a new HVAC program along with electrical programs. Students and parents interested in Fall 2022 enrollment can visit this LPSS resource for more information.

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“Reboot Your Career” Project at Louisiana Community Colleges

Community and technical colleges in Louisiana have started the “Reboot Your Career” project in which 5,000 Louisiana workers who are out of a job due to the coronavirus pandemic are being retrained for high-demand positions that earn around $50,000 a year. This program’s launch was outlined in an Advocate article, and it details that this immense effort is meeting a large demand.

The president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Monty Sullivan, reported that the state of Louisiana has recently already received hundreds of inquiries since the project began on September 14th, emphasizing how large the demand for such a project is in his area.

The “Reboot Your Career” project aims to retrain its workers in eight to twelve weeks at reduced tuition rates, so that those completing the program can enter either jobs or a career path where additional certification and education can pave the way for advancement in their field. This hope that the education continues certainly sets these workers up for upward mobility and a launching pad in general- as opposed to the stagnant state that many faced with the lay-offs and closed businesses left in the wake of the pandemic.

The program trains applicants for high-demand jobs from a list that was compiled after consulting with regional development leaders in Baton Rouge, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and GNO Inc, as well as the New Orleans area.

Jobs posted after hearing input from development leaders included positions in the health field, including nursing and medical assistants; the transportation field, including crane operators, car, and truck repair workers; the construction field, including carpenters, electricians, and plumbers;  and the fields of technology, manufacturing, and power-line installation. The complete list as well as other information on applying to the project is available at

An effort similar to the “Reboot Your Career” project came to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina struck the state in 2005. The disaster resulted in the training of 16,000 new construction workers, who were much-needed and heralded.

Senior Vice President for economic competitiveness at BRAC, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Liz Smith praised the effort, stating that both community and technical colleges had stepped up in 2016 when the state needed construction workers. “”I think they have a proven track record to be able to do this,” Smith stated, “”You see across the country short-term training is a very helpful answer for a large number of unemployed workers.”

In the Advocate’s article, Smith said that the group she works with shares its job board, BR Works, with state officials to help the project. BR Works’ job board includes more than 1,000 job postings from employers, with the highest demand being in the technology, health care, business, construction trade, law, and digital art design fields.

Louisiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education, Kim Hunter Reed, told the Advocate that she believes the most critical need for the restarting of the economy is education, saying that it “is a centerpiece of the work. The community colleges were made for this moment.”

The “Reboot Your Career” project initially made itself known with a 15-second ad played during the September 13th New Orleans Saints game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and there are more ads to come throughout the season, as ads will be playing in a Saturday slot of CBS college football games.

The project is funded partially from the state’s education share from the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that was approved earlier this year by Congress called the CARES Act. Governor John Bel Edwards allocated $15.5 million for colleges and universities with $10 million financing the project’s integral retraining of workers.

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