A new partnership in the Arkansas River Valley is connecting students with careers and employers with a skilled workforce.
The Education and Industry Alliance held its first meeting at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus in March 2021. Representatives from ABB, Butterball, Ozark Public Schools, Bank OZK, Guy Fenter Educational Co-op, ATU-Ozark Campus, Arkansas Tech Career Center (ATCC), Arkansas Valley Electric, Black Hills Energy and the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce are involved in the collaboration.
“The purpose of the Education and Industry Alliance is to develop and sustain partnerships with local industry," said Dr. Sheila Jacobs, chief academic officer at ATU-Ozark. "We seek to enhance industry relevant curriculum and educational and work-based experiences for our students so that we may continue to play an integral role in regional and state economic development.”
Student interns at the ATCC Tyson Foods Logan County Career Center in Paris had an opportunity to show representatives from ABB Ozark what they have learned during a site visit near the conclusion of the spring 2021 semester.
As a result of the Education and Industry Alliance, ABB has hired four machining students and the company expects to see the number of hirings increase as the partnership continues to develop.
Dexter Lekwa, ABB plant manager, spoke to the machining class on the importance of a specialized skill set and essential skills necessary for an employee at ABB. Lekwa also spoke about job opportunities and earning a livable wage with opportunities for advancement at ABB.
“It is very exciting to see the recent hire of the first paid intern from the ATCC machining program at the ABB Ozark plant," said Pat Edmunds, ATCC director. "This is a great beginning of a pipeline to provide a trained workforce for ABB Ozark among students directly out of high school. Arkansas Tech University, ATU-Ozark and ATCC seek to provide stackable degrees that enhance the relevant and viable programs we offer. It is our goal to continue to build community relationships and increase education and industry alliances that will result in a stronger workforce. It is because of great partnerships such as the one with ABB that ATCC and ATU-Ozark can continue providing a stronger, more prepared workforce for Arkansas industry and continue to support growth and economic development in the river valley."