From Trade School to Comprehensive Community College, Week-Long Celebration Honors Its past and Celebrates the Future
(Lake Charles, Louisiana – October 16, 2023)
SOWELA Technical Community College commemorates its 85th anniversary this year and will celebrate the occasion with a series of events the week of October 30. Established in 1938, SOWELA is the oldest higher educational institution in Southwest Louisiana.
“From its inception in 1938 as Southwest Louisiana Trade School to its status today as a growing and vibrant comprehensive community college, SOWELA Technical Community College has been providing a skilled, trained, and qualified workforce for the SW Louisiana region for 85 years,” said SOWELA Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall. “The institution is well known throughout the region as a workforce development engine that has helped build and sustain a strong economy from the 1940’s to today. SOWELA has a very impressive history of serving the educational needs of the citizens of SW Louisiana and providing them the access to quality jobs and a better way of life for themselves and their families.”
Anniversary events include a History Wall Unveiling on Monday, October 30, Halloween-themed brunch on Tuesday, October 31, a special presentation on the history of SOWELA during the College’s Illumination Series presented by Reference and Instruction Librarian Connie Milton and a “Celebrate SOWELA” cocktail reception on November 2. Events are invitation only.
Workforce development is the cornerstone of SOWELA’s achievements, providing students with the skills needed to stay agile in an ever-changing job market. During World War II, the School operated on a 24-hour basis at the request of the U.S. government, training more than 6,000 war workers. It also offered National Defense classes in auto mechanics, machinist training, electricity and welding.
In 1952, the School worked closely with industry to bring the first petroleum training classes to the region, including drilling, drafting and blueprint reading. In the sixties, it launched an aerospace center to train aircraft mechanics. Later, Boeing, the largest airplane company in the world, would move one of its facilities to Lake Charles and had its entire Lake Charles workforce trained at SOWELA.
More recently, in 2016, SOWELA achieved national recognition and ranked 30th in the U.S. out of 821 colleges for cost and financing, education and career outcomes and was named a “Great College to Work For” in 2021. For the past five years, SOWELA was named the #1 community college in Louisiana by WalletHub and Niche. It offers more than 30 programs in healthcare, industry, business, hospitality and transportation with locations in Lake Charles, Jennings, Leesville and Oakdale.
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 85 years.