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These are featured stories of how the Upper Delta and Mid-South is combating the Coronavirus as well as resources to help those impacted by the pandemic.

Arkansas Offers Career Training for Job Seekers Affected by COVID-19

Office job interviews with HR personnel holding resume and background checks on applicants with prepared skills.
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The grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Arkansas' workforce training program also covers support services for students, such as day care, transportation and internet access.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A training program in Arkansas is helping people jumpstart new careers after feeling the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project offers free, online courses through the University of Arkansas Global Campus and Shorter College to individuals facing barriers to employment. This might mean people with little work history, who are unemployed or underemployed, or those who have spent time in jail or prison.

Through partnerships, said Eddie Thomas, assistant director of the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, the training will help connect enrollees with employers with job vacancies.

"Although we're supporting and feel like the training piece is necessary, we have employers that are saying, 'Hey, do it quickly, so you can go ahead and come to work,' which is a good thing," he said. "But we also want to make sure we're upskilling and skilling those who actually need the training."

The Arkansas Workforce Development Board and Arkansas Division of Workforce Services received a three-year, $13 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the program. The courses include information technology, health care, food preparation and more.

Most of the programs are six months or less and students can complete them at their own pace. When they're finished, the University of Arkansas has partnered with iDatafy, a company that connects them with employers looking for the skills that match the student's certification.

Tara Dryer, senior managing director of the University of Arkansas Global Campus, called it a "win-win" for job seekers and employers.

"There are lots of sectors like hospitality that also are desperate for workers, so get people into jobs, help them make a livable wage," she said. "It helps them, it helps their family, and it helps the State of Arkansas."

The Division of Workforce Services estimated that nearly 100 people are enrolled in the training so far. The grant should allow the program to be able to serve about 3,000 residents. The Arkansas unemployment rate is 4.3%.