Director’s Chair: September 2021

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.

BY NOW, YOU’RE used to hearing us at ACDS talk about the Registered Apprenticeship Program, which we believe is the most efficient pathway, in terms of time and capital, to take someone with potential and passion, put them through classroom training customized to an employer’s required skills, and set them on the pathway to a great IT career.

We’re glad to be known for our Registered Apprenticeships, but we don’t want anyone thinking we’re a One-Trick Pony. While Registered Apprenticeships are the most efficient track, they’re not the only pathway that ACDS uses to expand the IT workforce in Arkansas. Take our “pre-apprenticeship” program, for example. Sometimes we run across candidates who show potential for an IT career but just need a bit more “tech” under their belts. In that case, we can guide them through a self-learning and self-paced program of courses that are available free on the Internet. We’re there for support and feedback, steering them through the curriculum they need in order to compete for an opportunity as a Registered Apprentice.

Other times, we encounter candidates who have the requisite tech skills but lack the attribute that most employers insist upon: actual tech work experience. To get around the Catch-22 of telling someone they can’t work until they have actual work experience, our team came up with an ingenious program called “work-based learning.” In fact, ACDS has received a grant for this program funded by the State Office of Skills Development.

Here’s how it works: We’ve partnered with various technology companies that have real tech projects they need done but don’t have the people to do them. They agree to take on one of our work-based-learning workers for a three-month assignment paid on an hourly basis by ACDS. While participating employers are taking a bit of a gamble, they do participate in deciding who to put on their team, and they assign a mentor and make sure the temporary employee is contributing 40 hours a week. In the best scenario, our workers prove themselves during this temporary assignment and are hired as fulltime employees with the participating company. But even if that doesn’t happen, our candidates now have real work experience to list on their resumes, not to mention a whole new level of self-confidence.

ACDS started this program in June, and it’s been very successful to date. That’s no accident—we’re fortunate to have just the right person evaluating candidate applications and matching the right workers to the right companies. Kristen Shryock is our resident expert, and we hereby add our kudos to the ongoing chorus of thanks she’s received from all the Arkansans who now have fulltime tech jobs as a result of Kristen’s fine work.

–Bill Yoder

Executive Director