LSU AgCenter Team Helps Residents Companies Prepare To Work

Denise Coolman  |  4/23/2005 1:34:06 AM

Cathy Judd, standing, of the LSU AgCenter’s Lincoln Parish office, and LaToya Ashley, left, of the Center for Rural Development at Louisiana Tech University, help Shearita Thomas of Ruston learn how to use the LA Works site on the Internet to look for jobs. Thomas is one of several Lincoln Parish residents participating in the “Leap Into Work” series of job readiness classes designed to help participants develop job skills and prepare for the job market.

News Release Distributed 02/06/04

The LSU AgCenter is helping Louisiana residents and companies prepare for the 21st century business climate through its community economic development programs.

Dr. Deborah Tootle, a professor in the LSU AgCenter’s Agricultural Economics Department, said the AgCenter’s community economic development programs center on entrepreneurship, business retention and expansion, workforce development, heritage and tourism development, and community leadership.

"The LSU AgCenter conducted Louisiana Communities Futures Forums in all of the state’s parishes," Tootle said. "From these forums, we learned that the people in 59 out of 64 parishes identified economic development as a priority in their parishes.

"To address those needs, the LSU AgCenter selected a team of agents from across the state to focus even more on community economic development."

This LSU AgCenter community economic development team has been in place for about two-and-a-half years – although such work has been a part of the work of LSU AgCenter researchers, extension specialists and agents for many years.

As a result, Louisiana residents are benefiting from LSU AgCenter programs such as "Leap Into Work," "Workplace Ethics," and other programs designed to help people develop job skills and prepare for the job market.

For example, the LSU AgCenter is working with the Monroe Chamber of Commerce to bring a year-long series of entrepreneurial workshops to the area. Those workshops, which are held the third Wednesday of each month at the Chamber’s offices, give participants information on how they can succeed in the job market or in new careers.

The February workshop is titled "Searching for Capital."

"This workshop will teach participants how to find the capital they need to finance their own business," said Dr. Kay Lynn Tettleton, an LSU AgCenter community economic development agent.

"There are resources out there available for people who want to start their own businesses," said Dr. Cynthia Pilcher, also an LSU AgCenter community economic development agent. "People just have to learn where these resources are."

In another example of the LSU AgCenter’s community economic development efforts, Lincoln Parish residents are "Leaping Into Work" with the help of a program brought to them by the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Tech University, the Louisiana Department of Labor and people from other Lincoln Parish agencies.

Now a pilot program being offered in Ruston, "Leap Into Work" is a six-part job readiness program designed to help participants develop job skills and prepare them for the job market.

"Lincoln Parish residents identified a gap in job readiness training for people 17 to 32 years of age," said Cathy Judd, an LSU AgCenter agent in Lincoln Parish. "We wanted to do something to help close this gap, and this is what we came up with. If this pilot program is successful, we are planning to have similar programs in the future."

Shearita Thomas of Ruston is one participant who said she believes she will benefit from lessons the program offers.

"I want to be a positive role model for my children," Thomas said. "And one way to do this is to find a good job. This program will teach me how to find such a job."

In Union Parish, agents are bringing the LSU AgCenter’s educational program titled "Workplace Ethics" to employees and management personnel at Pilgrim’s Pride, a poultry processing plant in Farmerville. "Workplace Ethics" is a program that teaches job-relevant interpersonal skills stressing: respect, trustworthiness, responsibility, caring, fairness, and citizenship.

"Pilgrim’s Pride has a payroll of $600,000 a week," said Carol Remy, an LSU AgCenter agent in Union Parish, explaining that payroll covers a host of plant workers and producers from the area.

Those are just some of the examples of how the LSU AgCenter is addressing economic development needs all over Louisiana.

Other community economic development programs offered by the LSU AgCenter focus on such areas as mapping the assets of your community, development of heritage-based enterprises, "First Impressions" training for communities, customer relations training, workplace preparedness for teens, leadership workshops and community leadership and economic development. A Community Economic Development Seminar also is offered once a year to assist community volunteers in developing their leadership abilities and skills in economic development.

Contact your parish LSU AgCenter office or go to www.lsuagcenter.com to find out more about what the LSU AgCenter is doing to assist with economic development in Louisiana.

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Writer A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

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