FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith announced a nearly $2 million in regional workforce grants that will be used at local high schools.
"Here at UAFS the RWG, Regional Workforce Grants for us means a robot automation program, UAFS robot automation and UAFS cyber systems program. Those are our two programs," said interim director of Regional Workforce Grants, Dr. Kim Gordon. "What we intended to do was to develop the workforce of the future. We looked to the closest geographic high schools to us and determined which school those were and then we looked at the employment data, the growth data, the economic indicators for this region and tried to determined what two fields of study that would be well suited to build the workforce of the future. If we want to have a robust region we've got to have the workforce, the laborship and then we've got to have the employers. Our goals was to figure out where we think those fields would be."
The grant will be broken in to two parts.
Starting this fall, eligible sophomores, juniors and seniors can take a robotics or computer science class taught by a UAFS professor on their school's campus.
"They will get a high school elective that will count toward their high school graduation requirements and they will also be earning college credits that will count toward a certificate of proficiency or a course in an associates degree or bachelors degree," Gordon said.
For the first year of the program Van Buren, Northside and Alma High Schools will host the computer science classes.
"The jobs these 17 or 18-year-olds may have when they are 30-years-old hasn't even been invented yet and courses like this help prepare them for those jobs that haven't even been invented yet," said Alma Superintendent David Woolly.
The robotic automation classes will be hosted at Greenwood, Southside and Charleston High Schools.
"They will be staying at their home room campus, taking their regular high school classes but one of their classes will be for their cyber systems course. Again, with top UAFS faculty," Gordon said.
If interested the student will register with their high school.
"There will be no cost to the student for tuition and fees. So, the schools , all six of our schools and the students, it's a win for them because there's no expense at all," Gordan said. "This program, once we get it built we believe it will be replicable. Meaning, yes it's for robots and cyber but that's not to say we can't do it for other disciplines or other specialties.
The original grant was written for the next two years, but UAFS faculty expect it to be continued for years to come.