As a part of our recently released Alliance for Opportunity Roadmap, we’ve been exploring the policy fundamentals needed to lift countless Louisianans out of poverty. A key pillar of this roadmap is removing barriers to work. Employment sets off a chain reaction of positive factors such as less dependence on social welfare systems, more housing stability, less crime, and more financial independence. Policies that promote work will help Louisianans reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, Louisiana has erected far too many barriers to work. With excessive occupational licensing boards hijacking entire professions, our state struggles to promote entrepreneurship and attract new business. The results of this tilted economic system are clear — rampant inequality, crime, and poverty.

Right to Earn a Living (RTEAL) and Fresh Start legislation ensures work permit applicants are treated fairly. If successful, RTEAL will make sure licensure requirements are reasonably tailored to the public interest while better protecting economic freedom in Louisiana. Similarly, if Fresh Start legislation is adopted, it will ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals aren’t permanently locked out of opportunities to work and become productive citizens. If we want to clear a pathway to prosperity for Louisianans, it’s time to reform our state’s occupational licensing laws.

Likewise, Louisiana needs better programs to bridge the gap between school and work. Replacing the school-to-prison pipeline with a school-to-work pipeline is arguably more feasible than sending every child to a 4-year college. Therefore, we need to build out effective private/public career training programs with clear data tracking measures on student employment outcomes.

The preparation of our kids for future careers and bright futures will require the pursuit of innovative strategies that emphasize the importance of work. If we want to ensure every Louisianan has the opportunity to flourish, it is critical that we build a bridge to work through changes in our education and occupational licensure systems.