Mayor Cantrell Attends Groundbreaking for New Orleans Career Center


Photo Source: NOCC Facebook page

“A strong workforce makes a stronger New Orleans,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell at the recent ceremonial groundbreaking for the New Orleans Career Center (the Career Center). Cantrell joined members of the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), legislators and community leaders as the Career Center began work on its new 143,000 square foot purpose-built site, an innovative career and technical education (CTE) campus located at 1331 Kelerec Street in Treme, the former home of McDonogh 35 High School. “This investment in our youth will diversify the economy,” Cantrell continued. 

A not-for-profit, the Career Center is a hub for high quality technical education, training skilled and prepared graduates for a lifetime of opportunities, advancement and success. The Career Center operates a half day high school program and full day training for adults. Among their goals is to engineer dreams and craft futures.

Funded by FEMA and CDBG grants awarded after Hurricane Katrina, this $26.9 million LEED-certified facility is among the last to be completed under the Louisiana Department of Education Recovery School District (RSD) and OPSB Facilities Master Plan. The new facility is being designed by SCNZ Architects and built by Broadmoor Construction. JACOBS/CSRS is the project manager.

The Career Center hopes to complete the site’s transformation in the fall of 2022. The new campus will have the capacity to train approximately 1,000 New Orleans public high school students and adults each year across six high-demand, high-wage career pathways.   

The training school’s main campus is currently located at 1020 N. Prieur Street. Operational since 2018, the Career Center has served as a bridge between Orleans Parish high school students and adults and well-paid in-demand careers in healthcare, engineering and hospitality. Trainees develop the valuable hard and soft skills they need to succeed in professional environments through hands-on learning with industry and education experts.

The Career Center’s program began with 124 students who became certified or credentialed in healthcare, hospitality and engineering/manufacturing. In 2020 NOCC started the intense Rapid Reskill program to train and credential adults 18 and older as certified Patient Care Technicians. Developed in partnership with Ochsner and LCMC Health, the program leads to adults being offered permanent employment upon certification. Many of those trainees have since gone on to advanced education and training that will move them up the career later. 

Overall, the Career Center has served more than 725 high school students and 100 adults who have been prepared to compete in careers and college immediately upon completing NOCC programs. Almost 500 trainees have eared professional-level credentials and certifications, making them more desirable employees. More than 85 students have earned college credits through dual enrollment, shaving semesters off their college careers and thousands off college tuition costs.   

“Our growth has been constrained by space,” said the Career Center’s founding Executive Director Claire Jecklin. “This year our partner high schools are asking to place more students with us than ever before, because they know the quality and effectiveness of our program. In the new building we’ll be able to offer our rigorous, real-world career prep to even more high school students.” Jecklin said the Career Center will also be able to work with more employers to design rapid adult training programs and apprenticeships to meet workforce needs.

“More New Orleanians will have the knowledge, the networks, and the necessary certifications or college credits to secure good jobs that contribute to a thriving and inclusive economy,” she continued.

“The goal of education is to expand the mind, spark curiosity, and prepare young people for the future as productive, participative citizens,” said Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr., NOLA-PS Superintendent. “That is exactly what the Career Center will be able to do more of in this new facility: expand young people’s understanding of locally viable careers, spark their curiosity about occupations they might never before have considered or understood, and prepare them to immediately compete in those fields on graduation.”

NOCC-offered pathways for professional-level certifications and dual enrollment college courses include: Blue/Green Infrastructure, Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management, Engineering/Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, Skilled Crafts/Trades, and Technology and Digital Media. More adult career training programs aligned with New Orleans’ high-demand, high-wage industries will also be offered at the Kelerec Street campus.  

“As we emerge from COVID, the demand for skilled workers is soaring,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “By developing curricula to meet industry demand, the Career Center ensure that students are ready for good jobs, and companies have the workers they need to grow. The Career Center is a ‘win-win’ for Greater New Orleans.”

Members of the Career Center’s board of directors include charter school executive Dana Peterson, YouthForce NOLA leader Cate Swinburn, educator Jay Altman, Ochsner Health Systems VP Emily Arata, construction financial management official Augie Gallo, Chef Alon Shaya, and private equity guru Rick Rizzo.  

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