Director’s Chair: February 2022

The Director's Chair

IT’S NO COINCIDENCE that Black History Month includes the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and that of Frederick Douglass (February 14). Black communities in the U.S. have celebrated those leaders together since the late 19th century.

At ACDS, Diversity and Inclusion are two of our core values, and I know that means we must be very deliberate in our follow-through. I’m proud to note that ACDS has partnered with Mark McManus and his team at the Arkansas Department of Commerce’s Office of Skills Development to expand IT Registered Apprenticeships in Arkansas. In that effort, ACDS has established programs with several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) throughout the state.

More than a year ago, we worked with Philander Smith College and Simmons Bank to complete a Registered Apprenticeship Program for an IT Specialist. Philander Smith’s Royshawn McLain became an apprentice at Simmons while still in school and finishing his Computer Science degree. This strategy is now being repeated, with HBCU students receiving IT-occupation-level salaries while continuing to finish their college requirements.

Today, ACDS is working with Southeast Arkansas College (SEARK) and the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (HBCU) to source some 100 apprenticeship candidates to fulfill the IT needs of a new service center organization locating to Pine Bluff, PeopleShores. Another great example of opportunities for HBCU graduates has been our work with Ensono, an IT solutions company in Conway that supports large healthcare clients across the country and needs IT talent focusing on large enterprise and mainframe computing. Ensono will continue to seek HBCU graduates for their entry-level apprenticeships.

And don’t forget Arkansas’ DART program, which you can read about elsewhere in this newsletter. By its completion in 2025, this ambitious program will expand opportunities for all Arkansas students to enter the IT and data analytics occupations. Shorter College, an HBCU, is already seeing positive impacts for students and alumni to find apprenticeship opportunities within small, medium, and large companies throughout the state.

–Bill Yoder,

Executive Director