A workforce training partnership that has served Arkansas for more than a decade has earned national acclaim.
Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus and Green Bay Packaging, Arkansas Kraft Division are 2020 recipients of the National Council for Workforce Education Noncredit Exemplary Program Award.
The honor recognizes a collaboration that has provided more than 1,000 employees from approximately 60 Arkansas companies with training needed to help drive the state’s economy.
"The training center fills one of the state’s largest workforce and economic skills gaps, which is that of hands-on technical skills," said Justin Smith, chief business and community outreach officer at ATU-Ozark Campus. "Several maintenance positions go unfilled simply because employers cannot find skilled electrical and mechanical technicians."
That began to change in 2008 when Green Bay Packaging envisioned converting a shuttered Levi's manufacturing plant in Morrilton into a workforce education facility. Funding from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and an investment from Green Bay Packaging, helped turn that vision to reality.
The final piece of the puzzle was identifying a higher education partner with the tools and capacity to help implement the training. ATU-Ozark proved to be the right fit.
“When we conceptualized this training program over 10 years ago, it was in an effort to address the growing skills gap within our local workforce,” said William Cone, vice president and general manager at Arkansas Kraft Division. “With the help of ATU-Ozark we were able to expand our vision to support industrial training for incumbent workers throughout the state. We are extremely proud of our workforce here at the Arkansas Kraft Division and this training collaboration has contributed significantly to the development and continued growth of many highly-skilled electrical and mechanical maintenance technicians, both for Green Bay Packaging as well as for many other companies throughout Arkansas. These investments have had a positive impact on Green Bay Packaging and have supported economic growth throughout the state. We are grateful for our ongoing partnership with ATU-Ozark and for the support of the state of Arkansas. We are deeply honored to be recognized by the National Council for Workforce Education for our combined efforts.”
ATU-Ozark recruits the outside companies that utilize the training center, handles registrations, supports curriculum development, orders instructional material, markets the training center and serves as the sole higher educational partner in the training. Green Bay Packaging, which owns most of the equipment and building, places two of its highly skilled employees in the role of instructor.
“It is an outstanding honor to be recognized by NCWE as its exemplary workforce program award winner for non-credit training," said Smith. "Our partnership with Green Bay Packaging is one that is hard to replicate among higher education and private industry, but we put forth the effort because of the value it brings to the workforce needs of industries across the state of Arkansas.”
Electrical courses taught at the Green Bay Packaging training center include Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) Level 1/Intro, PLC Level 2, Basic Electricity/Electronics, Intermediate Electrical/Basic AC Control Equipment, Electrical Troubleshooting, Batteries and DC Circuits, Advanced Electrical/Transformers and AC Circuits, Three-Phase Systems, Reading Technical Diagrams and Electrical Measuring Instruments.
The facility offers mechanical courses in Bearings and Lubrication, Maintenance of Mechanical Drives, Precision/Laser Alignment, Introduction to Hydraulics, Pump Systems, Introduction to Blueprint Reading, Mechanical Layout, Machine Shop Practices and Millwright Practices.
Certain days each week are designated for the training of Green Bay Packaging employees. Other days are reserved for providing the training to additional industry partners around the state.
"ATU-Ozark and Green Bay Packaging established this partnership and training center as a non-profit venture, which we believe helps sustain it rather than take away," said Smith. "The initial concept which involved the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission was one that would be for the greater good of Arkansas, training outside companies along with Green Bay employees."
Visit www.atu.edu/ozark/businessandcommunityoutreach for more information.