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Alexandria summit urges more higher ed investment, collaboration

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Northwestern State University
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More than 50 Louisiana higher education administrators met in Alexandria Monday to talk about how to do a better job of building an educated workforce in the region.

The president of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance Jim Clinton says this summit was planned to inspire public and private colleges to work together to build a knowledge-based workforce that currently lags behind the state and nation.

“I think we still live in a world where sometimes if you’re considered a nerd, that’s not a good thing. That needs to change. People who know things and know how to do things need to be celebrated and that needs to be implicated throughout central Louisiana,” Clinton said, following the summit at the Alexandria Convention Hall.

Northwestern State University president Jim Henderson was one of several college presidents who spoke during the two-hour summit. He told the audience, 1.5 million adults in Louisiana lack fundamental skills to participate in the economy. Henderson recognized the vast opportunity for all colleges to make a dent in this number.

“You’ve got to put the institutional mindset behind you and really focus on students, focus on employers, and focus on the needs of this regional economy. There’s so much room for growth,” Henderson said.

Henderson urged colleges to produce graduates who can think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and use technology.

The speakers also gave updates on new relationships developed between local industry and their respective institutions. Several college leaders spoke about how their institutions are retooling majors so they will better align with job openings in the region, especially in information technology.

Jim Clinton blamed stalled regional growth on a workforce that has fallen behind.

“The most important thing that we have to do in central Louisiana is upgrade our educational achievement levels. We work on it every day. But from time to time, it’s important to bring a public focus to that. No one can do it alone. No institution can do it alone,” Clinton said.

The summit on the future of higher education is in its fifth year.

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