New director joins workforce program
A former football coach, who led his Alabama high school team to playoffs for the first time in five years during the 2021 season, has joined Co-Lin as its Workforce Education Center Director.
Luke L. Laird brings a unique background that melds corporate and public school work experiences to a job that involves designing and implementing training programs to provide a skilled labor force for business and not-for-profit employers who work with Co-Lin in partnership to advance the economy and benefit students entering the labor force, existing workers and job-seekers.
The Enterprise native says he is excited "to come back home" and "give back to the community" by contributing to its economic development in building a quality labor force that serves companies and organizations already operating in the area and is a magnet for new ones.
Among other things, as he settles into his new job, Laird is looking to create a fiber splicing class similar to one he developed at AT&T to equip current and aspiring telecommunications workers in the area with new skills companies want their employees to have. Laird also sees potential in new training geared to an auto industry that economic forecasters say is evolving in Southeastern states, including Mississippi, and will someday be bigger than Detroit's.
A 1995 graduate of Enterprise High School, Laird earned Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees in business management at Southwest Community College (1997) and the University of Phoenix (2005) and worked as a Farm Bureau insurance agent in Lamar and Lincoln Counties before starting a 20-year career with Bell South and AT&T that encompassed positions as an outside technician (2000), network training specialist (2001-2004), network manager (2004-2005), safety manager (2005-2008) and senior manager for technical network process and quality (2008-2019).
Among his career accomplishments at stops in McComb and Jackson, Laird developed a process to actively update curriculum, was promoted to an industrial engineer after moving a crew ranked 33 out of 35 into the top five, and designed and implemented a training program that improved motor vehicle incident results from the last place to first in the country. After AT&T acquired Bell South, it transferred Laird to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he developed and deployed management systems and controls throughout the AT&T footprint as a project manager and saved the company $200 million over ten years.
In 2019,when AT&T asked Laird to take a new job at San Antonio, Texas, he took an early retirement from the company and joined the Hale County, Alabama, school system as a physical science teacher and football coach. Last year, he taught physical education and coached the football and softball teams at Hale County High School before beginning the latest chapter in his career story at Co-Lin.
Now that he is back home, Laird says he expects to settle down again in Enterprise with his wife Jessica, his high school sweetheart whom he has known since the fifth grade. They have two grown sons -- Logan, 25, who is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama; and Ty, 23, a construction worker.