ATU Event Brings Industry, Education Leaders Together

Clint O'Neal at Tech for Tech 2-24-2020
Clint O’Neal, Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive vice president of global business, was among the speakers at the 2020 Tech for Tech summit at Arkansas Tech University.

Participants in the 2020 Tech for Tech summit at Arkansas Tech University were greeted on Monday, Feb. 24, with a challenge from ATU President Dr. Robin E. Bowen.

“Let’s work together today, and beyond, to do more than reshuffle the deck,” said Bowen. “Let’s imagine the tomorrow that we want for Russellville…for the Arkansas River Valley…for Arkansas…and let’s make that happen.”

Approximately 100 experts in economic development, industry and higher education gathered at ATU for a conversation about emerging technology and future workforce needs.

The event, sponsored by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce, included a keynote address by Clint O’Neal, Arkansas Economic Development Commission executive vice president of global business.

O’Neal reported that Arkansas’ unemployment rate has remained steady at 3.5 percent in recent years while per capita income in Arkansas has increased by 19.4 percent over the last five years and 35.4 percent over the past decade.

As it relates to technology, O’Neal told the audience there has been a 460 percent increase in the number of Arkansas high school students enrolled in computer science classes as result of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Arkansas Kids Can Code initiative.

“The momentum in Arkansas is real,” said O’Neal. “By doing things like what we are doing today — bringing industry partners into a room, listening to them and responding to their needs — we demonstrate that the economic development team in Arkansas is large. Everybody is welcome to be on the team. Anybody who serves as an ambassador for your state or your community…certainly anyone who would take the time to be at an event like this and champion the cause of economic development…is on the team.”

Jerry Bever of Lockheed Martin, Steven Brannon of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Tim Copeland of St. Mary’s Regional Health System, Alex Cravens of Bank OZK, Scott Jones of Acxiom, Mike Rogers of Tyson Foods and Joe Wilson of Conagra Foods engaged with Dr. Mary B. Gunter, chief of staff at ATU, in a panel discussion about emerging technological trends in the workforce.

The panelists identified problem solving, depth of understanding, communication skills and people skills as some of the most valuable skills they seek in potential employees.

Other participants included Sen. Breanne Davis of Russellville, Sen. Jane English of North Little Rock, Rep. Mary Bentley of Perryville, Rep. Dr. Joe Cloud of Russellville, Russellville Mayor Richard Harris, Arkansas Division of Higher Education Director Dr. Maria Markham and ADHE Senior Associate Director for Government Relations and Special Projects Ann Clemmer.

Randy Zook, president and chief executive officer of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, and Paul Harvel, president and chief executive officer of the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of their organizations.

Dr. Barbara J. Johnson, ATU vice president for academic affairs, left the Tech for Tech participants with some closing thoughts.

“Our conversations today have reinforced an important notion: the time when we could be reactive to the changing world around us is over,” said Johnson. “The information that you, our guests, provided today will allow Arkansas Tech University to be proactive in developing curriculum and reviewing programs with an eye to the future. Knowledge is indeed power, and by sharing your considerable knowledge with us today, you have empowered Arkansas Tech University to do the important work of preparing students for the career opportunities that will exist 10, 20 and 30 years down the line.”

2020 Tech for Tech | 2/24/20