Power provision may be job No. 1 for a major utility. But ask any utility economic developer, and you’ll find talent provision truly powers regional economies. Cases of workforce development innovation are popping up across Entergy territory at least as frequently as company projects themselves.
In Texas, Jobs for America’s Graduates has honored Entergy with their Partner in the Pandemic Award, for the utility’s work with Southeast Texas Workforce Solutions. The award recognizes Entergy for the leadership and support the company has contributed to JAG to help youth and young adults facing significant academic, environmental, economic and social challenges, so they can succeed in their career pursuits.
It’s been a long-simmering effort driven by existing industry in the petrochemical corridor known as the Golden Triangle, as industry, community college and other leaders collaborate to fill skills gaps. Educating parents is one of the gaps being bridged.
“I’ve lived in this area my whole life,” says Karl Segura, senior manager, Business Development, Entergy Texas. “My father and both grandfathers worked in refineries, and my father’s only goal was to keep his kids out of the refinery, because back in the 1970s it was a dirty, unsafe pace to work. For so long the school system was set up where everybody gets a four-year degree.”
Texas legislation encouraging students to pursue a more technical path has opened eyes. “Some parents now realize these plants are clean,” says Segura, who sits on the regional workforce board.
On the higher education level, Entergy supports the Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (CICE), a partnership between Lamar University’s College of Business, College of Engineering and the Southeast Texas business community.
“We promote a strong emphasis on student development and training to prepare graduates for rewarding careers by familiarizing them with entrepreneurial real-world projects,” says Segura, “New businesses supported by the center are technology-focused, providing products and services for existing and future industry.” Another partnership with the university has resulted in a new degree in port administration.
Steve Pilgrim, director, Business & Economic Development, Entergy Texas, also serves as the chairman of the Conroe Economic Development Council. “When you work on the front lines like Karl and I,” he says, “we have a commitment to engage with the communities we work in.”
Among the paths to improved engagement is a partnership with Lone Star College to work with existing and prospective industrial companies on classes and certifications that proactively identify and address skills gaps.
“In addition to affordable and reliable electricity, we need a good business environment, good transportation and qualified employees to help businesses grow if we want our state and communities to be successful.”
— Laura Landreaux, Entergy Arkansas President and CEO
Beaumont is also home to the Lamar Institute of Technology, which recently compared average salaries of graduates to those from other community and technical colleges around the country and found it was No. 1 in Texas and No. 3 in the United States. Home to more than 8,000 students, the school has a 90% job placement rate, with some graduates finding jobs that pay more than $100,000. Many of those jobs, of course, are at petrochemical facilities, which pay extremely well, Segura says. “You can get a two-year degree and make a really good living.”
With fewer people searching for jobs, companies looking to hire often find a gap between the quality of worker they need and the quality of those who apply. Ten Mississippi counties, with support from Entergy Mississippi, are working to close that gap. Each has graduated from an Entergy-sponsored ‘boot camp’ that trained them to become a certified ACT Work Ready community. The counties join 34 other counties in Entergy’s Mississippi service area that have already received ACT certification.
ACT’s program gives a standardized and trusted way to communicate the skills base in a community with measurable data through a testing framework for workforce development. Most ACT training sessions take place outside of the southeastern U.S. Counties that want to take part must pony up for travel, lodging, food and training. That can be tough, so to ensure that all counties had the opportunity to become ACT Work Ready, Entergy Mississippi paid to bring the training to the communities. Entergy hosted two boot camps at Northwest Community College and Hinds Community College. DeSoto, Jefferson Davis, Montgomery, Quitman, Scott, Smith, Tate, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha and Yazoo counties all took part.
By partnering with ACT, Entergy Mississippi also enabled participants to train more people, explain Entergy Mississippi economic development leaders. “They’ll now continue the process of certification by implementing testing in their communities to reach the goals set by ACT,” they say. “It was a win-win for all.”
ADVANCING STEM EDUCATION IN LOUISIANA
To meet the growing workforce demand, a number of initiatives supported by Entergy, including $25 million in higher education programs from the State of Louisiana focused on expanding the number of degrees awarded in computer science, management and STEM fields, were created to ensure the successful future of DXC Technology’s new Digital Transformation Center in downtown New Orleans. The arrival of DXC Technology cements Louisiana’s position as one of the fastest-growing software and IT destinations in the U.S., following major projects by CenturyLink, EA, IBM, CSRA, CGI, GE Digital and others over the past decade.
To develop key components of the NASA Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System which will send Americans to the moon and Mars, a qualified workforce is critical. In response, Louisiana launched a new Aerospace Manufacturing Center of Excellence at nearby Nunez Community College. The new curriculum built a direct workforce pipeline for Boeing and others working with NASA.
Louisiana Technical College System (LCTCS), in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), implemented AWS Educate, AWS’s global effort to support cloud learning for students and faculty to unlock new career opportunities in cloud computing. And Ochsner Health has invested $20 million in a partnership with Delgado Community College to train the next generation of nurses and health professionals in New Orleans by expanding scholarship programs and building a new state-of-the-art building on Delgado’s City Park Campus in Orleans Parish.
To support the momentum in New Orleans’ entrepreneurial ecosystem, Entergy also has backed efforts such as Idea Village, which to date has served over 13,342 entrepreneurs, provided $32.9 million in resources and helped companies raise over $352 million in capital.
According to Business Facilities magazine, Louisiana is home to LED FastStart ®, the No. 1 state workforce development program in the nation for its innovation, effectiveness, flexibility and efficiency. FastStart provides customized employee recruitment, screening and training for new or expanding companies – at no cost.
CTE LEADERSHIP IN ARKANSAS
Entergy Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Education announced last December the development of 20 virtual business & industry career and technical education (CTE) courses targeting high school students and adults currently in the workforce.
“CTE is essential, as it provides high school students the opportunity to build workforce skills that will enhance learning and employability,” said Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key. “Fifty-three percent of CTE students earn a median income of $55,000 or higher after graduation, and 68% of students who complete a CTE program of study earn a post-secondary credential. These additional opportunities will expand the workforce pipeline to address critical economic development needs.”
Online CTE coursework in industrial equipment technologies; precision machining; machine power and equipment systems; mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems; and metal fabrication are among the 20 courses that will be available to students for the 2021-2022 school year.
“Technology has advanced tremendously in the last few years while Arkansas competes every day in recruiting for new and expanding business,” said Danny Games, director, Business & Economic Development, Entergy Arkansas. “These companies require an educated and skilled workforce that can satisfy their needs and, in turn, provide higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs. These CTE courses should benefit students and their potential employers for years to come.”
ENTERGY EMPOWERING EDUCATION
Entergy is committed to investing in the future of the communities in which we live, serve and work through our support of quality education programs. Education has been at the heart of Entergy’s charitable giving for 20 years. We believe that a high-quality education for everyone provides individuals the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their full potential and positively contribute to society.
Since August 2018, Entergy shareholders have contributed $7.4 million to support educational programs in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Our partnership with Operation Spark, one of 26 organizations supported by Entergy’s workforce development initiative, teaches students how to think like a software engineer, build production-grade web applications and use a broad array of computer programming tools. Learn how Entergy’s five-year workforce development initiative is fueling job creation in our communities here.
The Entergy Intelligence Report was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Site Selection Magazine.