RUSSELLVILLE – Russellville will be the launch pad for a $ 4.2 million pilot program to connect the workforce with education and employment opportunities, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Friday at the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting.
“This pilot will start right here in Russellville and include $ 4.2 million that will go to Arkansas Tech University to oversee this initiative and partnership,” Hutchinson said, eliciting a standing ovation. “This is the first pilot of its kind, and I hope that with the success that comes here, we can further expand this initiative.”
Hutchinson announced the Ready for Life program in January, a $ 14.7 million initiative funded by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which is part of the federal coronavirus aid, relief and economic security act .
Approximately $ 200,000 of this funding has been used to market the program to students and employers.
The online initiative, accessible at readyforlife.arkansas.gov, will connect job seekers, educators and employers, and will include job postings as well as continuing education opportunities for those seeking a job that matches their career goals.
While Arkansas’ unemployment rate of 3.4% is at an all-time low, the state is still struggling to find workers to fill the jobs it needs, Hutchinson said.
“We need to increase our workforce,” he said, praising Russellville for creating a workforce development team and strengthening worker education and training.
The website offers tools for creating resumes, viewing job openings, and taking online courses for skills in high demand. It also gives employers – even those out of state – access to job seekers’ resumes and training results.
The program will be available to high school students and will also focus on underemployed and formerly incarcerated people, Hutchinson said.
The program also helps identify future skill needs and will develop training programs that meet community demand.
“Ready For Life will make it easier for employees and employers to find each other, and it will give business leaders a quick overview of the state of the Arkansas employee pool as they hire new jobs.” talents, ”Hutchinson said.
In March, Hutchinson hired former Pea Ridge School Principal Rick Neal as Director of Workforce, Education and Data Transformation and tasked him with coordinating the Ready for Life initiative.
The funding will allow Arkansas Tech University to build a career coaching model and allow the university to partner with the Society for Human Resources Management to develop and implement the program.
The pilot program is an aspect of the Arkansas Tech Institute, which aims to create a credit-free education and training entity that would use career coaching, prior learning assessment, workplace learning opportunities and micro-degrees – training in a specific skill – to connect adult learners, underemployed workers, and the unemployed with career advancement and support economic development in the Arkansas River Valley.
Agriculture, business, IT, emergency management, engineering, healthcare, and technical programs are some of the disciplines that could be included in programming provided by the Arkansas Tech Institute.
“Arkansas Tech is grateful to Governor Asa Hutchinson for this demonstration of support for the enhanced culture of workforce development that is thriving in the Arkansas River Valley,” said the president of the Arkansas Tech, Robin E. Bowen, in a statement. “Our university is pleased to play a vital role in efforts to provide more and better career opportunities to our region.”
Hutchinson also told the crowd that “a lot of money” was coming into the state thanks to the $ 1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill.
“This will be a unique opportunity where we can look at water projects, we can look at irrigation projects – projects that are hard to pay for for us as a state and we need to invest more,” Hutchinson said. “I encourage this community to develop plans and reflections so that when these grant opportunities materialize and the opportunity presents itself, you can be online, you can present the best opportunity and the best case for investment. . “
Hutchinson ended the speech at the banquet by saying he was “pretty excited” about the future of the state.
“And I know they say, ‘Well, he’s only got a year left.’ Let me tell you this year is going to be a great one, ”Hutchinson said, referring to the last of his eight years as governor. “We’re going to be doing a lot during this time. We’re not slowing down what we want to do here in this state.”