Training Access: Granted

Arkansas receives funding for E-M, automation skills gaps

It’s always encouraging to hear of money going to a place that could really use it. With manufacturing skills gap being a widely acknowledged issue these days, manufacturing-related industries as they pertain to college are a fine place to start. A grant for $988,570 from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to fund technical training and career readiness has been presented to the University of Arkansas at Monticello’s Workforce Alliance of Southeast Arkansas, the university announced via a news release on its website July 11.

On campus at the University of Arkansas-Monticello.—UAM photo

On campus at the University of Arkansas-Monticello.—UAM photo

While it may not seem like a figure that jolts you out of your seat (it still seems like a lot of money on this end), the intention of bridging the educational gap between high school and college age students and employers in their community is crucial. It’s reassuring to see it addressed in the currently neurotic climate of manufacturing. Especially when it is specifically targeting electromechanical technology program development.

UAM’s Workforce Alliance connects higher education to businesses in seven southeast Arkansas counties. The alliance plans on using the almost-million in grant money to fund a new program with four pillars:

1.) Improving electromechanical technology and instrumentation programs at the UAM Colleges of Technology branches at Crossett and McGehee. This will include new equipment and program syllabi mainly related to industrial automation.

2.) An advanced manufacturing educational training program at the Crossett location, hosted by Georgia-Pacific. The pilot program is designed to “train completers as multi-skilled craftsmen with mechanical and electrical skills to enable them to set, tend, operate, and efficiently maintain their own machines,” according to the UAM release.

3.) A technical certificate program in diesel technology at the McGehee location designed to provide training in diesel repair as well as instruction in driving tractor-trailer rigs.

4.) A specific training program that partners county leaders with the ACT Work-Ready Community Program.

The ADHE grant will be disbursed in four equal installments over a 17-month period beginning August 1. It is intended to coordinate secondary and postsecondary education to “create a successful economic climate in Arkansas by preparing and encouraging Arkansans to pursue high demand jobs, including, but not limited to, those stemming from industry-recognized credentials, career and technical certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees,” according to the memorandum of understanding between UAM and the ADHE.

The Workforce Alliance of Southeast Arkansas is a partnership of industry, business, higher education, public education and economic development managers covering seven counties (Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Cleveland, Desha, Drew and Lincoln). Business and industry partners currently involved in the alliance include Clearwater Pulp and Paper Corporation of Arkansas City, Georgia-Pacific Pulp and Paper Corporation of Crossett, Potlatch Corporation of Warren, JB’s Diesel Doctor and Monticello Diesel Repair, both of Monticello, and Summit Trucking of Pine Bluff.

*Editor’s Note: The grant is not to be confused with an AmeriCorps grant presented to the state of Arkansas last month. U.S. Senator John Boozman announced June 15 that Arkansas would benefit from nearly $2.5 million in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service programs, $984,638 million of which is to be designated for educational scholarships for members. The numbers were similar enough to even confuse local newspapers. This grant is directed to be channeled through the Arkansas chapter of AmeriCorps, which has over 4,500 members at 380 locations throughout the state. Around 200 Arkansas AmeriCorps members will use that grant money to work on some of the most pressing issues in Arkansas including educating children in disadvantaged areas. Though both designations of funding are directed towards similar issues, they stand separately (good news for the Natural State).

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