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Career Connections in Southwest Louisiana

Industry Work initiative serves as a pipeline for manufacturing jobs.

By Joe Morris on May 16, 2023

McNeese State University
Rick Olivier

A surefire way to guarantee economic growth is to make sure people know about great jobs with upward career tracks and competitive pay.

That’s a chief reason behind Industry Works, the latest element of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance’s Ready, Set, Work initiative.

The Alliance’s Workforce Development Committee works with the Phillips 66 Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex, Louisiana Economic Development and the Regional Economic Alliance of Louisiana on the program, which is designed to raise awareness around career opportunities at local refineries and manufacturing facilities, as well as the businesses that support them, says George Swift, president and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.

“The initiative’s purpose is to let people know that jobs are available in those industries and that new ones are coming along in 2023,” he says. “We are expanding to feature aviation, health care and other industries alongside the petrochemical and manufacturing companies, so that we can build awareness for them as well.”

The initiative also highlights the skills needed for these careers, and points people toward local partners such as SOWELA Technical Community College and McNeese State University.

“A lot of people are underemployed in the sense that with some upgrading of their skills and additional training, they can increase their earning power,” Swift says. “We know people who have gone through training, gotten a job in petrochemicals or manufacturing, and are making three or four times what they were making. And then the jobs they had open up for those who are less skilled, and then those people can move up, too. It helps the whole area.”

Speaking of jobs, several can be found within the region’s four key industries – education, health care, hospitality and oil & gas.

Lake Charles Memorial
Lake Charles Memorial


One of the top industries employing many people in SWLA is education, with all parishes having an individual school board overseeing thousands of administrators, teachers and staff members. Calcasieu Parish School Board is the largest of the five, with Calcasieu having 4,900 employees (2,600 teachers) who provide public education for 33,000+ students. When area students are ready for college, Lake Charles-based McNeese State University and SOWELA are two other major employers. Besides its Lake Charles main campus, SOWELA has other campuses in Jennings and Oakdale.

A Heartbeat Away

Another top economic sector is health care, with Southwest Louisiana offering 11 hospitals that employ a total of 4,000 people. The largest is Lake Charles Memorial Hospital with 2,600 employees, while CHRISTUS Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles is the second-largest with a workforce of 100+. CHRISTUS Ochsner also has Lake Area Hospital in Lake Charles. Besides the three Lake Charles hospitals, there are two medical centers in Sulphur and one each in Cameron, DeQuincy, DeRidder, Jennings, Kinder and Oakdale.

Tourist Destination

Also contributing greatly to the region’s economy is the hospitality industry, with the Lake Charles Metro Area leading the way with more than 6,000 hotel rooms to accommodate visitors attending local conventions, sports tournaments, festivals, concerts and recreational facilities. In addition, the Southwest Louisiana gaming industry attracts about 4 million patrons each year and employs about 8,000 workers. Popular gaming venues include Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel in Vinton, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Isle of Capri in Westlake and L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles.

Full of Energy

The Southwest Louisiana oil and gas sector has been robust for many years, and that continues in 2023. CITGO Petroleum Corp. employs more than 1,000 people, while several companies in the liquefied natural gas industry, or LNG, are relocating to Southwest Louisiana because of the region’s natural gas supplies. SWLA companies such as Cheniere LNG, Cameron LNG and Calcasieu Pass-Venture Global LNG were among the first LNG export facilities operating in the U.S., and others that have since located in the region include Driftwood LNG, Commonwealth LNG, G2 LNG and CP2-Venture Global LNG.

The region also houses other strong industries. Three of them are agribusiness, ecotourism and logistics/distribution, with the Southwest Louisiana economy continuing to become more diverse all the time.

Kevin Litwin contributed to this article.

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