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Arkansas Meets Tech Industry Needs Today and in the Future

 January 03, 2018

Technology-driven jobs are found in nearly every industry today. And as the number of available tech jobs continues to grow, the need for skilled people to fill the jobs increases. To satisfy this pipeline, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson created a multi-step plan to provide Arkansans with the tools and training to excel in technology.

Governor Hutchinson believes fostering a generation of computer science-savvy graduates will give an unprecedented boost to the Arkansas economy in years to come. In 2015, he created the Computer Science Initiative, and Arkansas became the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive law requiring all public and charter high schools to offer computer science courses to students. Since then, the number of high school students participating in computer science courses in the state has increased by nearly 400 percent.

“Whether you’re looking at manufacturing and the use of robotics or the knowledge industries, they need computer programmers,” Governor Hutchinson said. “If we can’t produce those workers, we’re not going to be able to attract and keep the industry we want.”

Arkansas didn’t just pass a law; it also funded the new program with $5 million. That money helps pay for teacher training and is used to reward schools with high performance and enrollment rates in the new courses, since they are not mandatory for students.

“It’s a way to put a larger investment into [The Initiative] and make the whole program stronger and more long lasting,” Governor Hutchinson said. “It’s a small investment with the opportunity for a huge return.”

To ensure trained Arkansans can find the many opportunities that exist for high-tech jobs within the state, the website, ArTechJobs, was also created. Arkansas is the first state to have a website dedicated to unfilled technology jobs. The website expands opportunities for employers and those seeking high-tech careers in a wide variety of industries including IT, web development and design, database administration, software development, computer network architecture, information security, healthcare and more.

"To be able to do something you love and be paid well for it is a privilege unique in human history,” Governor Hutchinson said. “In this age of technology, any person with a basic knowledge of computer programming will never lack opportunity. No matter what your age, income or station in life, simply possessing the knowledge of computer programming opens the door to a whole world of possibilities.”

“There are dozens and dozens of resources available to anyone who desires to learn the art and craft of computer programming,” he said.

One of those resources is ARCodeKids, a new Little Rock-based nonprofit organization focused on building awareness, expanding student participation and enabling new career pathways in computer science throughout Arkansas. The Information Network of Arkansas created and developed the ARCodeKids website at no expense to the state.

Virtual Arkansas is also another valuable resource for students and teachers. The program was formed through a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Education Service Cooperatives. The site provides an array of quality digital courses to public school students in Arkansas and uses Arkansas-licensed instructors to do it.

Virtual Arkansas is committed to developing the full potential of Arkansas students by providing access to quality online courses that incorporate interactive instruction and preparing students for success in their college educational pursuits and in the global economy. School districts use Virtual Arkansas for a variety of reasons. A district may face a teacher shortage or want to provide additional course scheduling opportunities to their students. Some also use it to offer their students access to a digitally enriched curriculum.

The tech industry is growing in Arkansas, from fostering budding startups to housing the headquarters of some of the largest companies in the world. Arkansas business and government officials recognize the importance of partnership with the industry to ensure the success of the Arkansas Computer Science Initiative. Without the jobs, the need for the workforce does not exist. Without a trained, talented and well-educated workforce, the jobs could not exist.

Between the Arkansas Computer Science Initiative, and the hub of high-paying technology jobs to be found at ArTechJobs.com, Arkansas is preparing to be the leader of coding in schools, embracing the technology industry and making sure its top tech talent is here to stay.

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