United we stand, divided we fall.
This week was the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s (LABI) 39th annual meeting. More than 1,000 people showed up to show support, talk about the issues facing our great state, and to listen to renowned columnist Dr. Charles Krauthammer articulately opine on the issues facing our nation. As I walked around the crowded hallways and listened to Louisiana’s business community members talk about plans for expansion, hiring, and growth, it was apparent that a true sense of optimism permeated throughout the entire event. Louisiana is on the verge of a great run…as long as we work together to maximize this chance.
The morning panel was focused on meeting our state’s overwhelming demand for a trained workforce and the participants came from government and industry. Companies from different sectors and representing all parts of Louisiana joined state governmental leaders from higher education, elementary education and the workforce commission. Each ably represented his or her own unique silo but also coalesced around a similar, shared goal: the laser-like focus on training our kids to succeed in the jobs found in the new, global economy.
Each panelist understood that ensuring Louisiana kids improve in math, science and critical thinking is an absolute must. Each panelist agreed that technical training must be relevant, readily available, and clearly described as a legitimate path for our students to proudly pursue. Everyone agreed it would take all of our people to meet this worker demand – traditional and non-traditional students; those native to Louisiana and those coming here for opportunity; and those with a college degree and those without. The panel was varied in its role but unified in its mission. They were all united to work together, play their role, put Louisiana’s best team on the field, and go get that capital investment that has been sitting on the sidelines during our national recession.
Too many times over the years, Louisiana has found ways to let turf battles and power struggles get in the way of partnership and alignment. Too many times over the years we have clearly seen our challenges but simply refused to put aside our differences and together implement the solutions staring us in the face. It makes me proud and optimistic that the people of this state seem to recognize the opportunity at hand and now seem ready to work together to accomplish great things.
It is not rocket science and, the reality is, it never has been. Louisiana has been graced with good land, good energy, and good people. We have all the assets needed for a strong, growing economy. However, we also rank low in educating our kids in the subjects that matter most in developing a workforce (science, math, literacy, and critical thinking) and, as a country, the United States ranks in the middle of the global pack at best. The jobs of tomorrow in the global economy will demand better than that. Our state policy makers, business community and educators all seem to recognize it and all seem ready to work together to win this battle.
There is no “I” in team. United we stand, divided we fall. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Pick your motivational slogan, whatever gets you going but, at the end of the day, make sure you know the plan. In spite of our many differences, Louisiana is a team whose diversity makes us even stronger…if we finally start working together, we can dominate the competition.