The Director’s Chair: November 2019

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.

AS PART OF our mission, we at ACDS must act as a catalyst for tech talent, making sure that our state’s supply is sufficient to meet the demand. That’s easy to say but complicated to do, and the more we work at it the more we understand the ongoing task ahead of us. As we’ve talked about it over these past few months, both among ourselves and in interactions with the state’s employers, educators, and workers, we’ve boiled the problem down to four prescriptive variables.

Bill addresses educators from around the state at the recent November Data Science Workshop hosted by UCA

The first variable is capability—the talent needs to be trained so that it aligns with the skills that our employers require. The second variable is capacity—we need to be producing enough trained tech talent to go around. The third variable is what I call retention—our tech talent needs to feel incentivized to stay in Arkansas. And the last variable is enrollment—if we’re to keep that supply funnel full, we need to be producing enough people with the potential and the passion to pursue degrees that qualify them for a technical profession.

As you can see, with these variables come a whole lot of moving parts. That’s why ACDS works with all the stakeholders involved—all of the state’s employers, all of its universities and colleges, and of course all of the available talent. We completed assembling our ACDS team at the end of June, and since then we’ve been engaged on multiple fronts: Over the past four-plus months we’ve called on 75 employers around the state; we’ve acquired a deep understanding of the tech jobs these employers are having trouble filling; in both Little Rock and NWA we’re launching registered apprenticeship programs in such occupations as data analyst, developer, and cybersecurity analyst; and we continue to interact with educators on campuses throughout Arkansas, where we’re gratified to see a number of transformed Computer Science and Data Science programs. Collaboration is starting to happen, and that can only help speed up this state’s ability to address the capability and capacity challenges we face.

–Bill Yoder,

Executive Director