Three Greater New Orleans Companies and Three Higher Education Institutions Unite for New Apprenticeship Program and Partnership

March 27, 2019

Today, Greater New Orleans, Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht was joined by representatives from three Greater New Orleans companies and three regional higher education institutions for the signing ceremony of the cooperation agreement between all parties for an innovative apprenticeship program for mechatronics.

Representatives from Elmer Chocolate, Laitram, and Zatarain’s pledged their commitment to train students alongside the Chancellors of Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, and Nunez Community College.

“The Mechatronics Apprenticeship program is one small step towards a better trained workforce, but one giant leap for industry-higher ed partnerships. Never before have multiple companies partnered with multiple schools at the same time, to focus on a single workforce need,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO, GNO, Inc.

Building on a history of successful industry and higher education partnerships, GNOu is a program wherein companies partner with schools to create custom-designed training. This generates a triple-win: the company gets specifically-trained workers, the school gets a market-relevant curriculum, and, the overall labor market benefits from a better trained workforce. The Mechatronics Apprenticeship Training Program is the latest initiative of GNOu.

The ultimate goal of the program is to create an innovative, industry-driven approach to education that will bring in a new wave of talent to our workforce and cultivate skills for the future. GNO, Inc. believes this program has the potential to be utilized across the advanced manufacturing industry.

“The greater New Orleans region has a long and storied history in manufacturing. Today’s announcement of this partnership represents the next iteration of building the manufacturing workforce for all of Southeast Louisiana. The partnership with GNO, Inc., Laitram LLC., Zatarain’s, Elmer Chocolate, Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, and Nunez Community College will provide opportunities for the people of this region for generations to come,” said Dr. Monty Sullivan, President, Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

In 2017, Greater New Orleans, Inc. engaged companies in the advanced manufacturing industry to determine workforce needs that could be solved by specialized training. From these conversations emerged a talent gap surrounding the increasing modernization of regional companies, specifically at Elmer Chocolate, Laitram, and Zatarain’s. As manufacturing technology evolves, the skills needed to use and maintain equipment changes as well, creating the need for customized training programs.

The specialization required involves mechatronics, an emerging, interdisciplinary branch of engineering that combines skills and knowledge in electrical and mechanical systems, electronics, robotics and control systems. Mechatronic workers are employed in many industrial environments, including energy, plastics, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace.

“Today’s high-tech manufacturing environment has opened up significant opportunities for people in Louisiana, especially our younger generations. While some predicted new advanced technologies and automation would eliminate jobs, we have found the reverse – more jobs are being created. The challenge today is not finding a job, it is having the skill set required to be successful in that job. This partnership between business and higher education will provide the key to many people looking for an exciting and fulfilling career,” said Robert Nelson, CEO at Elmer Chocolate.

“As a global manufacturing company, we are always looking for employees who are skilled in various disciplines of manufacturing technology,” said Franck Labiche, Human Resources Director at Laitram. “Our hope is that, through our participation in the Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program, the overall manufacturing talent pool throughout the Greater New Orleans region will improve and, in turn, companies like Laitram will benefit from the availability of more skilled employees.”

“Zatarain’s is proud to partner with our regional higher education institutions to support this unprecedented mechatronics apprenticeship program. It’s clear that the institutions, along with other New Orleans companies, will be able to create a unique curriculum and experience to help young men and women excel in our surrounding communities,” said Raj Nair, General Manager at Zatarain’s.

After bringing this matter to our region’s higher education institutions, it became apparent that three schools – Delgado Community College, Northshore Technical Community College, and Nunez Community College each possessed unique aspects of training that could be combined to create a curriculum and program that would generate trained workers that meet the needs of the program’s employers.

“This apprenticeship program is the result of a regional collaboration within the Louisiana Community and Technical College System solely focused on the needs of our industry partners and desired outcomes focused on student success. This regional approach creates a model that not only addresses the needs of our industry partners, but sets a standard for future regional collaborations centered on workforce solutions that strengthen local and regional economies,” said Dr. William S. Wainwright, Interim Chancellor, Delgado Community College.

“The Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program demonstrates the collaborative efforts of higher education and industry to meet today’s workforce needs. Students will receive real world training and bypass the risk of accumulating student debt. It’s a great day for Louisiana and the future of higher education,” said Daniel Roberts, Acting Chancellor, Northshore Technical Community College.

“We are in the midst of experiencing an Industrial Renaissance. Technologies are changing, therefore competencies are changing, and as a result expectations must change. Our programs of today must deviate from the programs of the past if we are going to prepare our workforce of tomorrow,” said Dr. Tina Tinney, Chancellor, Nunez Community College.

The Mechatronics Apprenticeship Training Program’s curriculum is designed to enhance and prepare each apprentice to be fully qualified in multiple aspects of advanced manufacturing technology. The two-year commitment will provide both technical classroom instruction and on-the-job training using an earn-while-you-learn model with training costs covered completely by the employer.

Once assigned to an employer, apprentices will earn a paycheck while learning on-the-job. Apprentices will alternate between eight weeks of classroom work and eight weeks at their chosen company for the duration of the program. Participants in the program will gain experience in a wide range of core competencies including motor controls, basic machining (mill, lathe, drilling, tapping, etc.), blueprint reading, functions of electrical and electronic systems, plus much more.

Next week, each of the three schools will host information sessions on their respective campuses.

Tuesday, April 2nd • 6:00 pm-7:30 pm
Delgado Community College River City Site and Advanced Manufacturing Center – The River City Student Hall
709 Churchill Pkwy, Avondale, LA

Wednesday, April 3rd • 6:00 pm-7:30 pm

Northshore Technical Community College – Room 105
65556 CenterPoint Blvd, Lacombe, LA

Thursday, April 4th • 6:00 pm-7:30 pm
Nunez Community College – Kane Technology Center – Common Area
3700 LaFontaine St., Chalmette, LA

Michael Hecht at River City
GNO Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht speaking at the March 27 kick-off with leaders from the three community colleges and business partners at Delgado River City in Avondale.