This is National Apprenticeship Week, and I’d like to discuss the progress we’ve made in expanding registered apprenticeship programs throughout Arkansas.
Historically, apprenticeships have been available primarily in the construction trades, but the needs of industry have led us to broaden the opportunities. Many leaders have said there is a shortage of talent, and in Arkansas, we are making great efforts to fill that void. During my administration, we have expanded apprenticeships into manufacturing and now we are moving into health care.
This expansion has become especially important during the pandemic as thousands of people have lost their jobs and retraining for new opportunities is critical.
Since 2015, Arkansas has increased the number of registered apprenticeship programs from 82 to more than 140. The number of apprentices has grown from about 4,000 to over 9,000. Our goal is to have 10,000 apprentices by 2023. We are working with a network of over 800 employers to accomplish this.
In September, I attended the opening of the Tech Depot Apprenticeship Academy in Newport. This program incorporates many elements that are critical to producing a high-quality, high-tech savvy workforce. The Tech Depot in Newport is evidence that we can provide high-tech opportunities in places other than big cities, and it will accelerate the growth of our high-tech workforce.
The Office of Skills Development, the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences, and the division of Workforce Services have partnered to create Reskill Arkansas, a program designed to assist the unemployed to change careers and move into high-demand jobs such as IT generalist, web development, data analytics, or cybersecurity. ReSkill builds off on the Computer Science Initiative and the 2017 Blue Ribbon Commission on Data Analytics and Computing.
Three Arkansas hospitals are creating the state’s first graduate registered nurse apprenticeship. The program will assist in retaining newly hired registered nurses and reducing staff turnover. It will also provide a structured support program for newly hired registered nurses.
This expansion of the apprenticeship programs is the result of public-private partnerships among the businesses, educators and training providers, industry intermediaries, and state government.
The pandemic has renewed our focus on the need to provide Arkansans with new skills. It’s essential so that they can move into better-paying jobs. The retraining strengthens our workforce so that Arkansas is even more attractive to businesses that are considering expanding into this state. Apprenticeships allow companies to recruit, train, and retain their talent. Employees who train in a company’s apprentice program tend to stay with that company longer.
If you are unemployed or just considering a job change, I encourage you to visit the ReSkill Arkansas website at www.acds.co/ReSkillAR as an apprenticeship may be the opportunity that will put you into a new career.