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Over $8M in Workforce Development Grants Awarded in Jonesboro

Arkansas Department of Commerce

Governor Asa Hutchinson handed out around eight-million-dollars in workforce development grants to nine organizations and partnerships around the state.

In January, Office of Skills Development (OSD) received proposals for large-scale workforce development projects designed to connect innovative educators, employers, and economic development organizations to promote the growth of Arkansas’ workforce. By forging partnerships and leveraging existing resources, workforce initiatives in the state have been chosen to receive significant grant dollars to turn their ideas into a reality.

Grant recipients submitted projects in January and those selected then presented those initiatives to the Career Education and Workforce Development Board (CEWD) in February “shark tank” style. Those approved by the CEWD Board will receive grants in varying amounts based on their specific project, sector of focus, and regional needs.

The following grant recipients have projects that are the culmination of partnerships between private industry, education, and economic development organizations and the leveraging of existing resources:

  • University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR)– $1.956 million for the development of a regional Cyber Learning-to-Employment (L2E) ecosystem which will provide cyber security training. The L2E will include UA Pine Bluff, Forge Institute, UA Pulaski Technical College, UA Hope-Texarkana, UACC Batesville, UACC Morrilton, UA Cossatot, the Academies of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS). This ecosystem includes a UA System instructional consortium, the CyberLearning Network (CyberLearN), will use stackable certificates and prior learning credit to articulate credit from Forge Institute cybersecurity boot camps and registered apprenticeships through ACDS.
  • Forge Institute - $1.68 million for training up to 240 individuals in IT and cybersecurity over a three-year period, preparing graduates to enter the workforce of companies like Acxiom, Edafio, GSK, and others.
  • Black River Technical College - $1.339 million for the development of CDL truck driver training offered at no cost to individuals. This program has the potential of training up to 500 drivers within the next three years. Graduates will be able to go to work immediately, making a living wage in the trucking and transportation industry, helping to alleviate the transportation crisis in Arkansas and around the nation. 
  • ASU Mountain Home - $1.239 million for the development of a composites program that serves marine manufacturing. The program, designed in collaboration with local boat manufacturers, prepares graduates to work locally at companies like Ranger, Vexus, Basscat, and Shawnee Boats.
  • ASU Beebe – Searcy Campus - $686,661 for the development of a robotics curriculum designed to prepare students who wish to become Robotics Technicians. With curricular support from ASU-Beebe’s Industrial Technology, CNC, and Welding Technology programs, participants will be trained to engineer and operate automated manufacturing, specifically at local companies such as St. Jean Industries, Lomanco, and others.  
  • Clark County Workforce Training Group (CCWTG) - $421,315 for regional Millwright and Industrial Maintenance Training. This newly formed consortium, composed of Clark County businesses and industries, the Arkadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce, ASU Three Rivers, Henderson State University, and the West Central Arkansas Planning & Development District, will invest in industrial maintenance and millwright training equipment to augment current training programs.
  • South Arkansas Community College - $259,211 for the development of a rural forestry workforce training program, which will include non-credit training, as well as certificate programs, technical certificates, and Associate degrees. This training meets the growing need of the forestry industry in Ashley County and the surrounding south Arkansas region.
  • The Innovation Hub at Winrock International - $246,295 for Skills to Launch Training that provides new opportunities for participants committed to a career within the construction and manufacturing sectors including Industrial Maintenance, Energy Efficiency, HVAC, Construction, Roofing, and other fields. 
  • North Arkansas College - $226,000 for expansion of their CDL Truck Driving and Manufacturing programs. Graduates will qualify to enter the workforce of local companies such as Wabash, Pace, and others, as well as the trucking and transportation industries.

OSD will distribute and monitor grant funding and program outcomes over the course of the grants. OSD strategically invests in all levels of the Arkansas workforce, from students to incumbent workers, by raising education and skill levels, meeting the needs of companies operating in Arkansas, balancing workforce and employer interests, leading to greater economic achievement for workers and companies.

Johnathan Reaves is the News Director for KASU Public Radio. As part of an Air Force Family, he moved to Arkansas from Minot, North Dakota in 1986. He was first bitten by the radio bug after he graduated from Gosnell High School in 1992. While working on his undergraduate degree, he worked at KOSE, a small 1,000 watt AM commercial station in Osceola, Arkansas. Upon graduation from Arkansas State University in 1996 with a degree in Radio-Television Broadcast News, he decided that he wanted to stay in radio news. He moved to Stuttgart, Arkansas and worked for East Arkansas Broadcasters as news director and was there for 16 years.