Officials Say Worker ‘Pipeline’ Key To Fort Smith Metro Workforce Development

A robot on the floor of ABB’s manufacturing plant in Fort Smith. More automation in the plant has resulted in company officials needing higher-skilled employees. (Photo Courtesy: Talk Business & Politics.

FORT SMITH (TB&P) — Workforce development is vital to Fort Smith. It’s a point Tim Allen, Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, has stressed often over the past several years.

In order to attract more industry to the region, there has to be an increase to the pool of skilled workers in the Fort Smith MSA, Allen says. In order to increase that pool, schools and industry have to work together. The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and Fort Smith Public Schools have programs in place to help grow that pool and continue to move forward with plans to do more.

Fort Smith voters approved a school millage increase in 2018, the first in 31 years, raising the millage rate in Fort Smith from 36.5 mills to 42 mills. The new rate is expected to raise $120.822 million, $13.724 million of which is earmarked for a Career and Technology Center featuring specialized lab spaces and classrooms for courses in healthcare, information technology and advanced manufacturing, areas Allen has said are the most highly needed of skilled talent in Fort Smith. The facility should open in 2021 in the former Hutcheson shoe facility in east Fort Smith, was donated to the school district in February.

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