Growing a Local Workforce


Danny Murphy - Coauthor

The opening of the new Louisiana State University and VA Medical complex slated for 2014–2015 in downtown New Orleans is about to open up hundreds of jobs online to service and run these medical centers. Will the unemployed residents of New Orleans get hired? The Greater New Orleans Foundation recently convened health care and biotech employers to help relay their frontline needs to local service and training providers in order to maximize the employability of New Orleans’ low-skilled workers.

Leading the workforce collaboration for the foundation is Site Director Carla Major, who coined the name New Orleans Works (NOW) with the goal of providing health care employers with a locally trained workforce. Major’s previous work experience as vice president of human resources and community relations for Harrah’s New Orleans Casino and Hotel prepared her for managing, selecting, and helping to train a staff of hundreds. With experience under her belt, Major knew NOW’s first step would be to bring employers together and ask, “What’s your pain? And how can we help ease it?”

She invited National Fund for Workforce Solution (NFWS) consultant Angel Bermudez and Michael Paruta of Care New England Health System, the second largest private employer in the state of Rhode Island and one of the nation’s leading models in health care workforce development, to speak to health care employers in New Orleans about the benefits of the NFWS model. Paruta said that workforce partnerships aren’t easy or perfect, but they’re necessary for the sector to reach its fullest potential.

“If our competition was hiring nurses for 50 cents more, the nurses would quit working for us and follow the better salary,” explained Paruta. “We were just stealing employees from each other until it became too expensive.” The only way for employers to stop pilfering qualified workers is to trust each other, collaborate more, and grow the pool of local, qualified talent.

At the first of many NOW meetings, trust began to develop as employers admitted to taking employees from one other. As they targeted future needs, from literacy to customer service skills, they saw that growing a pool of capable, local talent was essential for all.

By growing locally and working with the end goal in mind, NOWis poised for success.


Julia Boyer, communications assistant and Danny Murphy, programs assistant at the Greater New Orleans Foundation

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