To meet the demands of a growing economy, Louisiana has a record number of jobs and workers. Economists estimate more than 75,000 jobs will need to be filled annually in Louisiana over the next 10 years, of which 25,000 are new jobs every year.

Nearly half of annual job openings in Louisiana require a postsecondary credential, and another 38 percent require some college. However, of the 2.3 million potential working adults in Louisiana today, 600,000 have no high school diploma, and another 1 million adults have a high school diploma but no postsecondary credential. Without targeted and urgent action, hundreds of thousands of Louisianans will be unprepared to capitalize on this life-changing opportunity.

To meet this challenge and ensure that Louisiana jobs are filled by Louisianans, employers and community and technical colleges are partnering now more than ever in our state’s history.

This approach is strengthened by new legislative and policy initiatives such as the JumpStart initiative, the Act 360 community college construction program, and the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund. These state efforts require the support and participation of private company partners, honing the focus of colleges and strengthening industry relationships that will pay dividends for generations.

In just the past 18 months, Louisiana’s community and technical colleges have raised $40 million from industry partners’ private matches.

Individual companies are working directly with neighboring colleges to ensure appropriate, high-quality training to fill available jobs in creative ways. Recognizing the opportunity before us, corporate partners such as AT&T, JP Morgan Chase, CB&I and Praxair have made significant investments across multiple colleges.

In Lafayette, the Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center and local partners created a two-year registered nurse program at the South Louisiana Community College with the inaugural class in training now. In Baton Rouge, the Dow Chemical Foundation teamed with the Baton Rouge Community College to create the Women in Welding program, training 53 women at their Port Allen and Westside sites.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System recently joined forces to better understand the needs of the maritime workforce with forthcoming recommendations to scale up training in New Orleans and the bayou region.

In every corner of our state and across a diverse array of sectors, these cases exemplify the hard work, coordination and commitment shared by leaders in industry and Louisiana’s community and technical colleges.

These efforts have led to a public agenda — “Our Louisiana 2020” — that sets out a bold plan to meet the most pressing workforce challenges in Louisiana.

While the ongoing budget debates swirl around the State Capitol, employers and educators around the state are staying focused on the task at hand — ensuring that Louisianans benefit from a historic opportunity for prosperity. Economic growth and individual opportunity can and must be advanced simultaneously in Louisiana.

Throughout this upcoming legislative session, LABI and LCTCS will jointly promote the principles and best practices of public-private cooperation in policies and legislation that stand to benefit the state as a whole.

Higher education and industry are relying on each other to get the job done.

A strong pipeline of talent and skills from Louisiana’s colleges and universities are necessary to fill numerous and diverse opportunities with the promise of high-wage jobs and a better quality of life.

We pledge to work together with the administration, the Legislature and our partners across higher education to rise to the challenge, meet this goal and continue to move Louisiana forward.

Dr. Monty Sullivan is president of Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and Stephen Waguespack is president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.