Arkansas is Committed to Workforce TrainingNovember 11, 2017
Preparing homegrown talent to fill high-paying jobs in Arkansas is a must. As a follow up to our post about developing the talent pipeline through quality educational programs in Arkansas, this post examines how education and industry in Arkansas are working together to reduce skills gaps for a vibrant workforce.
Making Vocational Education Work for Arkansas
Arkansas has restructured high school vocational education to help students make a smoother transition from school to postsecondary education and/or the workplace. Career opportunities, High Schools that Work, and youth apprenticeships are part of this systemic change that provides students with academically challenging courses. There are 26 Arkansas high schools that participate through the Arkansas Department of Career Education. Arkansas also touts five high schools with a focus on computer science. This number is expected to grow, supported by the passing of the Arkansas Coding Initiative in 2015.
Workforce development is a priority of the state’s community and technical colleges and institutes, which work with business and industry leaders to meet existing and new workforce needs. More than 95 percent of the state’s population lives within a 30-mile radius of one of these institutions.
At AEDC, we have business managers who help businesses and industries create formal workforce development groups to identify common training needs in their communities. These consortia, as well as individual companies, are eligible for state-funded training grants. Additionally, AEDC and our partners developed the Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate Program, which allows employers to identify and locate the skilled workforce required to maintain global competitiveness.
The state is transitioning to the National Career Readiness Certification (NCRC), which was developed after Arkansas’s and other states’ certificate programs, to allow additional visibility of our workforce on a national level. The NCRC allows prospective employees the ability to document the skills that they possess and assists companies with a method of matching potential workforce with existing job openings, thus reducing turnover and increasing profitability.
Specialized Workforce Training
Specialized workforce training in Arkansas helps meet the needs of both employers and residents in the state. Aviation Maintenance Technology is a program offered in five locations in Arkansas to prepare students to take the Federal Aeronautics Administration exam to become a licensed aviation mechanic.
Henderson State University’s Department of Aviation offers a four-year Bachelor of Science degree specifically in aviation. Experienced faculty, flight instructors and 15 aircraft provide students with the training and education necessary to prepare them for a career in the professional aviation industry in the safest environment possible, whether they want to become a pilot for the airlines, manage the airports they serve or manage the fleet they fly.
The UTeach Institute partners with 46 universities to implement UTeach programs across 22 states nationwide. Two of these universities are located in Arkansas – University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the University of Central Arkansas. Graduates of these programs are projected to teach approximately 110,000 secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students by 2020.
Connecting Educators & Industry
The Modern Workplace Program was created to facilitate the connection & communication between educators and industry representatives. Educators and industry representatives collaborate to create an education environment that allows our emerging workforce to lead productive lives and satisfy the needs of Arkansas businesses.
Collaboration often yields the best results. Several public-private partnerships within the state exist to provide professional development in Arkansas to help businesses maintain a skilled workforce and help Arkansans secure high-paying jobs.
For example, Green Bay Packaging in Morrilton was having a difficult time with skill upgrades for existing maintenance employees and developing a pipeline of new employees to backfill positions vacated due to retirement and internal promotions. Arkansas Tech University in Ozark and Green Bay Packaging, in conjunction with leadership and resources from AEDC and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, created a training center specifically targeted at industrial technical skills related to mechanical, electrical and instrumentation maintenance to advance incumbent employees and skill upgrades for top journeymen. Employees from other surrounding companies take advantage of this training center as well.