April 7, 2021
There is a tremendous need for many Louisianans to get back to work, exacerbated by the global pandemic. At the same time, 50% of those who remain employed will need some reskilling or updated training, most likely in technology, by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum’s recent Future of Jobs Report. How do we, as a state, shore up this demand for new and technological skills to get the economy back on track?
The answer lies within adaptation. The pandemic accelerated life online. From telemedicine to online grocery shopping, the institutions that are agile enough to pivot and meet a virtual audience where they are have been able to adapt, survive, and even thrive.
LSU is no different. LSU has been providing high-quality education since 1860. Now, with more than 100 programs online, students from all walks of life can get the same degree from anywhere. The number of undergraduates who enrolled in LSU Online increased by 175% this Fall. From the Baton Rouge campus alone, LSU has graduated more than 2,500 online students. They include those who had only a high school diploma and were facing an extremely competitive job market, as well as those who left the workforce in 2020 to take care of their families. The flexibility and accessibility of online education are positive impacts not only on the individual but on the family’s economic health.
Social worker Jo Anna Fisher’s career did not skip a beat, despite the pandemic and loss of a family member, because of LSU’s flexible online graduate degree program. A resident of Mooringsport (population 600, northwest of Shreveport in Caddo Parish), Fisher enrolled in the online Master of Social Work program last spring and earned her degree in December. She is now working full-time as a mental health professional at Brighter Futures Counseling Services in Shreveport, where she counsels 10 to 12 clients ranging in age from 7 years old to older adults.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this job without the degree I have,” she said. “I’ve always been very excited to go to LSU. It’s a prestigious school.”
With her Master of Social Work degree, which is among the top three most popular online degrees (including the Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Construction Management) from LSU Online, Fisher conducts community psychiatric work and makes house calls, which takes her on the road. The 23-year-old self-described military brat is passionate about helping people. Through the LSU Online program, she was able to gain additional technology skills, which has helped her conduct telehealth sessions with her clients.
To meet the demands in today’s economy, LSU has built a robust technology offering that can benefit employers. According to the aforementioned jobs report, 94% of business leaders expect their employees to pick up new skills on the job; however, this isn’t realistic without partnering with educational experts, which a national, Baton Rouge-based company like Turner Industries has done.
“LSU Online & Continuing Education has been our public training provider for more than two decades. This partnership has allowed us to invest millions of training dollars into our workforce development and specialty vendor training for our craftspeople, leadership, and safety professionals. To date, we have enrolled over 3,500 employees in more than 6,000 training opportunities aimed to upskill and retain our current workforce. I have seen firsthand how these programs have prepared our skilled craftspeople to move into leadership positions and thrive in those roles. This advancement creates career opportunities at all levels in our organization,” said Ray Neck, director of workforce development at Turner Industries Group.
Over her 16 years at Turner Industries, Kaci Forman has taken in-person and virtual professional development classes at LSU to broaden her skillset and advance her information technology training career. After graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University with a marketing degree, she began her career at Turner Industries answering IT Help Desk calls. Now, she oversees a team of four who develop and present a range of technology training for Turner Industries, a leading industrial contractor.
“I want to make sure I’m helping my team meet their goals so we can be more effective. You can’t just become stagnant,” Forman said. “There’s always room to grow.”
Through LSU Online & Continuing Education courses, she has developed her public speaking, presentation, project management, supervisorial, and data analytics skills. She is among 3,500 individuals who have taken the Fundamentals of Supervision course, which is part of the Management & Leadership Certificate program since LSU developed it 10 years ago. She is currently enrolled in a class to become a more effective manager. Forman has also taken short mini-courses which can be applied toward resume-building certificates and degrees. Several continuing education certificate programs—in business, education, human services and social work, engineering and construction, safety, and technology and data analytics—offer a MicroCred digital badge that can be used to showcase skills.
“I think it’s a huge perk for us not to have to pay for classes out-of-pocket and still get the knowledge and certificates. I think that’s a huge benefit,” Forman said. “LSU providing that and an education for people who aren’t in school to further their careers, I think that’s a huge benefit for our company as a whole.”
LSU Online & Continuing Education continues to develop partnerships with companies such as Turner Industries and trade organizations like the National Electrical Contractors Association to learn what sort of skill set gaps exist and how the University can work to meet certain needs to help advance careers.
The university has a mission “to vastly expand its online program offerings to better meet its students' needs and the changing times in which we live.” LSU is committed to transforming education and students' lives—professionally and economically – while serving as an economic engine for the state and beyond.
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