SOWELA and U.S. Coast Guard Sign Nation’s First-Ever Healthcare Lateral Entry Program for Nursing Graduates

Agreement Addresses USCG Workforce Gaps: Provides Direct Enlistment Opportunities for Nursing, Culinary Arts, Industrial Electrical and Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Graduates

Lake Charles, Louisiana – April 9, 2024

SOWELA Technical Community College and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) for the establishment of a Direct Enlistment Lateral Entry Program during a special signing ceremony today at the College. The signed LOI between the USCG and SOWELA is the first in the U.S. to provide nursing graduates with direct enlistment into the USCG or USCG Reserve. Programs such as this help address workforce gaps within the USCG.

“SOWELA is very excited and honored to be able to work with the United States Coast Guard and implement lateral entry pathways as an option for our graduates,” said SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “The lateral entry program will allow our students to utilize their skills and abilities for advanced rank status. This initiative provides additional employment as well as career opportunities by giving credit for the classroom experiences and a head start on career advancement in an outstanding organization known for quality and excellence.”

On hand for the ceremonial signing of today’s Letter of Intent (LOI) are pictured (left to right) Command Master Chief Shawn Burns, 8th Coast Guard District, Commander Elizabeth Newton, Marine Safety Unit Lake Charles, SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall and SOWELA Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Dr. Paula Hellums.

SOWELA is also the first community college in Louisiana to formalize a USCG Lateral Entry Program. Approved lateral entry programs for SOWELA graduates into the USCG or USCG Reserve include Nursing as Health Services Technicians (HS), Culinary Arts as Culinary Specialists (CS), Industrial Electrical Technology as Electrician’s Mates (EM), and Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Technology as Machinery Technicians (MK). These identified pathways help bring much-needed expertise and skills to the USCG workforce.

“I am extremely excited for this new partnership between the US Coast Guard and SOWELA, “said CDR Elizabeth Newton, Commanding Officer, Marine Safety Unit Lake Charles. “This collaboration will not only benefit the Coast Guard by identifying outstanding candidates that possess the skills and credentials we need to strengthen our workforce, but also providing SOWELA graduates with opportunities to implement their skills in an exciting career path filled with unique adventures, amazing people, and the ability to make a difference immediately.”

A production recruiter will screen SOWELA students in these mission-critical areas who express interest to ensure they meet all enlistment criteria. Once the applicant is deemed fully qualified, they can enlist as a Petty Officer Third Class or Petty Officer Second Class, attend initial military training, and then graduate at an advanced pay grade and head off to their first duty assignment.

In addition, the USCG has several enlistment incentive programs based on specific recruiting needs. Current cash bonuses include up to $75,000 if a recruit has a critical rating. Interested individuals should speak with a recruiter to learn more.

SOWELA doubled its Nursing cohorts this year after receiving state and accreditor approval. The College now offers a Fall and Spring start date for the Nursing program. Recent Nursing graduates achieved a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX exam, far surpassing the national pass rate average of 79.9%, which indicates the quality of educational training at SOWELA.

Registration for Fall 2024 classes is currently open for all SOWELA programs. Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available for those who qualify. Interested individuals can visit APPLY to learn more or contact the One Stop Enrollment Office with questions at (337) 421-6550 or

About the U.S. Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard, a unique branch of the military, dedicated to protecting and defending America’s maritime interests. With a rich history and proud tradition of bravery and service, the Coast Guard is a vital force that operates on the front of national security, law enforcement, and humanitarian missions. The Coast Guard is a tight-knit service that welcomes new members from all walks of life, offering a challenging and rewarding career path that combines service, adventure and personal growth. Semper Paratus, “Always Ready.” For more information, visit Coast Guard.

About SOWELA Technical Community College

SOWELA Technical Community College provides traditional, distance, and lifelong learning experiences and awards associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. The College empowers learners in career and technical education and enables transfer students to pursue a four-year degree, so all learners excel as globally competitive citizens. The College has been educating the region’s workforce for more than 85 years.

3820 Senator J. Bennett Johnston Avenue
Lake Charles, Louisiana 70615
(337) 421-6565
(800) 256-0483

Mon-Thu: 7:45 AM to 4:15 PM
Friday: 7:45 AM to 12:00 PM
(337) 421-6550

SOWELA Technical Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability, or age in its programs and activities. The following person(s) have been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies:

Title IX Officer

Candy Parker

(337) 421-6510 or (800) 256-0483

3820 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave. Lake Charles, LA 70615

ADA Officer

Maegan Lewis

(337) 421-6952 or (800) 256-0483

3850 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Ave. Lake Charles, LA 70615

©2024 SOWELA Technical Community College, All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Sitemap | Website Accessibility