Director’s Chair: April 2020

A headshot of an old white man with white hair on the sides of his head wearing glasses, a black suit jacket, and a blue and white checkered shirt on the Director's Chair announcement.

WHILE MOST OF us continue to shelter in place, the wheels of progress keep turning. I’m pleased to report that the state of Arkansas has been awarded a U.S. Department of Labor grant for $2 million, to be distributed over four years. The grant—entitled “Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap”—became effective March 1, 2020, and is being led by the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Higher Education in conjunction with the Department of Commerce, Office of Skills Development (OSD); Arkansas Division of Workforce Services; and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences.

“This grant is an incredible opportunity for Arkansas,” said Director of Higher Education Dr. Maria Markham in a press release put out earlier this month. “Our state is well situated to provide place-based partnerships of employers, educators, community partners, and policy leaders who are working together to build a high-quality apprenticeship program.”

The grant is a game changer, allowing us to accelerate our efforts to establish a sustainable workforce in rapidly changing and high-demand fields. Specifically,

it will allow the implementation of 1600 new apprenticeships in various Information Technology professions throughout the state. ACDS will take the lead in IT apprenticeship programs.

It also allows us to expand the registered apprenticeship concept to other key industry sectors, replicating ACDS’ proven IT model in Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, Transportation, and Financial Services. OSD, under Cody Waits, will take the lead in non-IT apprenticeships.

This grant is a big win for Arkansas and for those employers who’re choosing registered apprenticeships as an additional strategy to source their IT staffing needs. For them, this Department of Labor grant will leverage, via OSD, additional funding streams to help expand IT apprenticeships, as we all continue working toward the state’s overall goal of 10,000 apprentices by 2022.

–Bill Yoder

Executive Director