Remains the premiere workforce training program in the country.
Since launching in 2008, LED FastStart® has raised the bar and elevated expectations for what a best-in-class workforce program should look like. Training more than 26,000 workers for expanding Louisiana employers, and forging groundbreaking partnerships between educational institutions and private firms along the way, LED FastStart hasn’t slowed down.
Resting on its workforce laurels isn’t in the program’s vocabulary; continual improvement is. So is a relentless attention to delivering customer satisfaction.
“Winning top honors over eight consecutive years is an unprecedented feat among workforce development programs,” says LED FastStart Executive Director Paul Helton, “especially as other states continue to find new approaches. But the secret to our success isn’t a secret. It’s a matter of execution and customer satisfaction.”
The program’s ability to alleviate workforce concerns for expanding employers has been a key factor in Louisiana’s successful attraction of billions of dollars in new investment.
“The reason we decided to come to Louisiana is because of the quality of the people and the quality of the training programs delivered by LED FastStart]. We met with many private business owners throughout Shreveport-Bossier, and we learned first-hand of the outstanding workforce that is available -- people who take pride in their work,” says Ron Sedley, owner of consumer packaging manufacturer Ronpak. “We were equally impressed with the training program that is available through LED FastStart. It was key to having a great workforce that would be well-trained from the start." Ron Sedley - Owner, Ronpak
In July 2017, LED FastStart earned recognition from Business Facilities magazine as the No. 1 workforce development program in the country for the eighth consecutive year. The publication’s annual State Rankings Report calls FastStart the “gold standard” of workforce development programs in the United States.
Business Facilities lauded FastStart’s ability to adapt to rapidly changing fields that are increasingly driven by technology. The program was also recognized for its role in fortifying Louisiana’s long-term workforce pipeline through public-private apprenticeship programs.
"Embedded in FastStart’s culture is the belief that it should operate with the same urgency as the very corporate clients it serves, says Helton. That means delivering products on time and with a higher level of creativity and innovation than commonly associated with the public sector."
Paul Helton - LED FastStart Executive Director
FastStart customizes workforce recruitment, screening and training programs for new and expanding companies that meet a threshold for investment and job growth in Louisiana. FastStart’s team is brought in early to pinpoint a company’s workforce needs, from the qualifications of its job applicants to the essential training each must achieve to fulfill their job functions. From the beginning, FastStart strives to gain deep insights into a company’s culture, and to ingrain that culture in new employees.
Helton says that FastStart also distances itself from competitors by the way it defines success.
“A lot of programs evaluate their effectiveness by the number of workers trained, or the hours of training they have facilitated,” Helton says. “Our only success measure is to ask our customers, ‘Are you satisfied?’ and ‘Does what we’ve done translate into results for your company?”
A recent example of FastStart’s work includes the production of a safety video for new employees of the global energy company, Sasol. Sasol is constructing an $11 billion world-scale ethane cracker and chemical derivatives complex beside its existing 400-acre complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that will ultimately triple Sasol’s domestic chemical production capacity.
Training new workers in safety procedures is a major concern for companies like Sasol, and LED FastStart used a fresh approach — the enduring enthusiasm for sports in Louisiana — to ensure Sasol’s workers got the message.
“Traditionally, these things can be very boring,” Helton says. “But we sat down with Sasol executives and discussed how we could make this product as interesting and engaging as possible. We aligned their safety goals with the theme of being on a sports team. It was a relatable way to get across how making decisions — and mistakes — impacts yourself and others.”
Many state workforce development programs around the country were born of the need to train workers for the automobile manufacturing industry. Workforce development programs produced singular training modules that were delivered only after several employees were hired. Today, that is no longer the case. Advanced manufacturing and other sectors need to train individual team members the moment they’re hired. FastStart anticipated this kind of evolving need, and has the capability of producing on-demand training modules.
“Employers aren’t waiting to on-board a group anymore,” says Helton. “They need to get them trained and on the floor ASAP. We’re always working to make sure we’re not stuck in old-fashioned ways of thinking.”
That often means creating mobile device training programs that are tailored to a variety of positions.
For example, FastStart has developed training modules for the rapidly expanding restaurant delivery company, Waitr.
“There’s no way a company like Waitr is going to be able to train all their new employees in one room, so we’re doing a lot of mobile device training for every level of employee, from program engineers to drivers,” says Helton. “That includes things like policies, procedures, down to delivery etiquette and safety.”
Beyond its work customizing recruitment and training programs for clients, FastStart also plays a key role in fortifying Louisiana’s workforce pipeline for the long term.
FastStart has formed partnerships with two- and four-year colleges to develop curricula and job-site training directly related to an employer’s current and future needs. While these programs directly serve large manufacturing sites with specific needs, including Sasol and Shreveport-based Benteler Steel/Tube, they have the capacity to serve other companies that choose to invest in Louisiana.
Moreover, FastStart is fueling a notable apprenticeship movement. Companies that produce job creation targets can take advantage of the program, which uses public funds for training community and technical college students while they also take classes.
FastStart also has helped to create a high school-based certification in manufacturing program that is currently deployed at 35 Louisiana high schools. A similar certificate, known as C4M, can be attained in a single, intensive semester of study at community and technical colleges in Louisiana.
“Success in building a workforce development program depends on our ability to expand the number of workers who fill the jobs of the future,” Helton says. “Companies really see the value in participating in these programs.”