Guest Column with Mickey Austin: June 2023

A headshot of an older bald man with a white beard.


Robotics as a service is just around the corner

Mickey Austin

CEO, PeopleShores

THE AGE OF Robotics in Arkansas is about to take a giant step forward. My company, PeopleShores PBC, and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS) are collaborating to prepare cohort participants to provide Robotic Process Automation as a service to companies of all sizes. We expect to launch this service by August 1.

This initiative does double duty for us at PeopleShores. We are a purpose-led company whose total focus is to make a lasting impact on the world by being an organization that serves a greater purpose, going beyond just profit to positively impact society and bring prosperity to the Shores of the economically challenged. As a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), and Impact Sourcing Services Provider, our primary mission is to establish Tech Centers and bring opportunities and sustainable career paths to individuals in underserved rural and inner-city communities across the United States. In addition to Pine Bluff, we have centers in Clarksdale, MS; Brooklyn, NY; and Dekalb, GA, with more on the way.

PeopleShores established an Impact Sourcing Technology Center in Pine Bluff in March 2022, which is now fast approaching 100 Associates. The objective is to create a positive multiplier effect in the community, while providing valuable outsourced technology services for companies and government organizations in Arkansas and even other states. PeopleShores provides claims processing, call center/customer care, technical help desk, business process/back-office support, and IT software programming services for its clients. And now, with the partnership of ACDS, we’re adding Robotic Process Automation—RPA, for short.

We’re presently training an RPA cohort of 10 people. Participants were selected based on their potential, personal interests, and motivation—not their current occupation, skills, or experience. The program begins with PeopleShores’ foundational training, which includes soft skills, leadership skills, and basic technical skills. This is followed by extensive technical RPA training, facilitated by ACDS, that covers critical and transferrable technology skills. ACDS also assisted with sourcing candidates through its extensive network.

“One thing that’s been interesting about this program is how we’ve orchestrated the timing of the candidates,” says Lonnie Emard, ACDS’ Apprenticeship Director. “They’re going through an ACDS-paid internship for three months while they get half of their training, and then they’re hired fulltime as apprentices by PeopleShores, during which they finish the second half of their RPA developer training. All of that is in preparation for these newly minted robotics experts to become billable on contracts to various PeopleShores customers.”

RPA has emerged as a transformative technology in recent years, streamlining business processes and enhancing operational efficiencies. At the heart of RPA lies the expertise of bot developers, professionals skilled in creating and deploying software robots. These developers possess a unique blend of programming proficiency and business acumen, allowing them to analyze and understand complex processes and translate them into automated workflows. They’re adept at leveraging RPA tools and frameworks to build intelligent bots capable of mimicking human actions, such as data entry, information retrieval, and other repetitive tasks. Bot developers play a crucial role in optimizing business operations, reducing errors, and freeing up valuable human resources to focus on more strategic and creative endeavors.

We feel fortunate to be working with ACDS, a nonprofit whose mission of growing Arkansas’ IT talent pipeline is especially compatible with our own reason for being. ACDS actively engages with local businesses, government agencies, and academic institutions, fostering partnerships that promote the development and implementation of cutting-edge technology

solutions to help create the future of Arkansas.

Beyond their recruiting and training contributions to this RPA initiative, ACDS also provides introductions to many companies who could benefit from this service. “We’re not really in the business of making entrepreneurial connections,” says ACDS Executive Director Bill Yoder, “but in those cases where we’ve run across companies struggling to streamline their various processes, it’s only made sense that we at least allow PeopleShores to know who the appropriate contacts are.”

We especially appreciate our relationship with ACDS in Arkansas. They’re a valued partner in workforce development. Together, we are changing lives.