LOUISIANA’S HBCUs POWER STEM WORKFORCE OF YOUNG, BLACK PROFESSIONALS
Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to higher education. In Louisiana, six HBCUs provide suchaccess and degrees that are within reach.
But there’s another important vision beyond caps and gowns: to connect young Black women and men with their first jobs. In Louisiana, it’s a shared vision, one that continues to be realized thanks to the hard work of degree-seekers, partnerships within the higher education community and innovative workforce programs designed to meet the needs of employers looking for young, bright minds.
Famous musicians, artists and celebrities are among the alums of Louisiana’s HBCUs. How about Southern’s Morgan Watson? In case that name doesn’t ring a bell: Watson was among NASA’s first Black rocket engineers, working on the Apollo 11 mission that sent the first man to the moon.
The groundbreaking work of alumni like Watson paved the way for the next set of graduates who will come from the over 20,000 current enrollees at Louisiana’s HBCUs. And like their predecessors, many will step foot into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. That’s because HBCUs in the Pelican State are educating and training their students to become engineers, pharmacists, software developers and aerospace and cybersecurity specialists.
Louisiana’s workforce development and training program, Louisiana Economic Development’s LED FastStart, has been a key cog for partnerships and job fulfillment. The program has been ranked as the best in the nation for 11 years running in part because of the outstanding work being done through its partnerships with HBCUs.
In northern Louisiana, LED FastStart pairs higher ed and high-tech to fill jobs along the state’s I-20 Cyber Corridor, a busy stretch of interstate booming with tech companies. There, you’ll find the Aerospace Technology Center at Southern’s Shreveport campus preparing students for engineering and mechanical careers in that industry sector.
At Grambling State, a 50,000-square-foot digital library supports university degree programs in computer science and computer information systems. Grambling offers the state’s only degree in cybersecurity and the first recipients picked up diplomas at the end of 2021’s spring semester. The university is the largest producer of computer science graduates in Louisiana.
DXC Technology, with a Regional Innovation Delivery Center in New Orleans, lends its prowess in cloud computing to the state’s HBCUs. In partnership with LED FastStart, DXC offers experiences in areas crucial for new hires through apprenticeships and cloud computing boot camps, while also funding scholarships. The Southern University (SU) System has offered over $350,000 in scholarships across its Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Law Center campuses through the partnership. Over 120 students in the SU System have participated in technical certification courses.
Studies in STEM fields aren’t limited to tech. The state’s two private HBCUs, Dillard University and Xavier University of Louisiana, are renowned for their roles in medicine. Both are located in New Orleans.
In all of higher ed, Xavier ranks first in the nation for the number of Black graduates that go on to complete medical school. The university also ranks as the nation’s best for awarding bachelor’s degrees to Black students in the biological and biomedical sciences, physical sciences and physics.
In addition, Dillard University has the most Black female physics graduates in the nation. The university is the third top producer of physics bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black students.
Education is the access point by which groups from all backgrounds can capture the American dream. Thanks to Louisiana’s HBCUs, America’s next generation of Black professionals is being prepped for in-demand STEM jobs that await after the walk across the graduation stage.