CGI’s Will LaBar – Committed to Community Growth and Educational Opportunities for All

Will LaBar, Vice President of CGI Federal’s Digital Service and Onshore Delivery Center Programs, is our guest. A native of Somerset County, New Jersey, he graduated in Finance from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Upper State New York.

After college, Will moved to Northern Virginia where he met his future bride, Carlee Alm. He dated Carlee long distance for a year and took a leap of faith by moving to Lafayette in 2000 so he could be close to her as she worked in Church Point for Teach for America. Will actually has French Canadian roots, as his dad was born outside of Quebec City, Canada, and maintained dual citizenship. So while Lafayette LA was not on his radar as a young man growing up in New Jersey, Lafayette’s Acadian and French heritage was appealing to Will.

Will’s employer at the time, American Management Systems, accepted his request to work from Louisiana. The company was purchased by CGI in 2004 and Will continued to work as a telecommuter until 2014 when CGI selected Lafayette for its facility.

CGI was attracted to Lafayette due to several factors: 1) The company strategically locates in parts of the U. S. where there is not historically a technology workforce in place; 2) CGI recognized the ready partnership opportunity with UL-Lafayette, LEDA, LED and our local government working together to diversify the economy; 3) The existence of LUS Fiber provided the necessary technological infrastructure; and 4) Valuable incentives were offered by the State of Louisiana such as LED FastStart, ranked the nation’s No. 1 workforce development program for nine years in a row.

CGI’s Digital Service and Onshore Delivery Center program is at UL – Lafayette’s Research Park. The program was begun in 2006 and has 7 centers across the US and has created more than 1,600 jobs in partnership with local communities and universities. 400 employees are based here in Lafayette and CGI plans to double that number of workers to 800. When asked what “onshore delivery” meant, Will explained, “The company assists both government and business clients and serves as an interface to make it easier to input data and compress the time it takes to retrieve the data. The end result is that the public can more easily obtain information and businesses stay in compliance. CGI modernizes IT.” For more information, visit CGi’s site here.

Ever wonder how big CGI really is? It is the world’s 5th largest independent IT and business process services company with over 74,000 members in 400 offices across 40 countries.

One program of importance to CGI is the STEM@CGI Program. This nationwide K-12 program aims to train and mentor young people for STEM careers and teaches the students computer building and coding in one-day programs. Launched in Lafayette in 2016, STEM@CGI was envisioned by Anne Swanson, CGI’s U. S. Education and Workforce Development Coordinator, and resulted initially in a partnership with UL Lafayette and the Lafayette Parish School System. The program took off like wildfire and CGI’s team members have now taught over 3000 students at 45 events in 10 communities nationwide. Local partners include GEAR Up and New Vision Leadership, and the students utilize UL – Lafayette Computer labs and resources at the Lafayette Parish Library.

Half of the local team members are recent graduates of Louisiana universities and half are hired on the open market. The majority of employees have technical backgrounds in traditional programming, yet some have backgrounds in non-traditional studies that offer transferable skills to the IT sector. Will spoke of the importance of hires trained in “informatics,” offered at UL – Lafayette in fields such as business, healthcare, digital media and more. Informatics is a blend of technology and business application that teaches the student to solve problems with an understanding of the business objective.

Will spoke of the high quality of the talent hired out of UL-Lafayette, and stated, “I would put them toe-to-toe against any university graduate we’ve hired from anywhere else in the country. This is from experience. They’re killing it!”

CGI is committed to growing the local workforce. By planning to expand to more than 800 jobs in Lafayette, the company is hiring not only locals but “boomerangs” who couldn’t originally find jobs here and are returning now that job opportunity is available. Diversity in their workforce is important and workers are of all ages and backgrounds.

Environmental sustainability is important to CGI and its team members. They partner with Project Front Yard to volunteer for litter pickups and “Embrace the Space.” The team followed the Rio Parade at Mardi Gras and assisted with bead pick up.

A lifetime soccer player and fan, Will served as captain of his college Men’s team and has coached soccer at LYSA, CSC, Notre Dame in Crowley, LHS, and STM for about 15 years. He helped lead STM to two state titles, and 3 state titles with his club team at LYSA.