Gov. Hutchinson Commits $2.1M To FSPS Workforce Development Program

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — Governor Asa Hutchinson was in Fort Smith Thursday (Jan. 9) to announce additional funding for Fort Smith Public School's Workforce Development program.

Hutchinson was at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce to make a surprise announcement.

Hutchinson and Mike Preston, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce and Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission announced Hutchinson has committed to $2.1 million for the new career and technology center.

“We are excited about this investment in the future of so many students throughout our region and very grateful to Governor Hutchinson. These resources will be utilized to create a world-class advanced manufacturing program within the new career and technology center that is scheduled to open in Fall 2021 as part of our Vision 2023 Capital Improvement Program. The advanced manufacturing, health care sciences, and information technology career pathways offered at this facility will equip students with industry-recognized certifications that lead to high-paying jobs immediately after graduation and/or prepare students for higher learning in STEAM-related fields,” said Dr. Doug Brubaker, Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent.

He continued, “We are also grateful for our partnerships with the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. It is exciting to be part of a process in which so many educators, business leaders, parents, and community members are continuing to work together toward realizing our shared vision of expanded opportunity for students throughout our area.”

President and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce Tim Allen  said:

 “This is one more piece of a unique, large puzzle that puts Fort Smith in the national spotlight as a business workforce destination where all of the partners in the community are working together toward one unified goal.”

He added, “With Governor Hutchinson’s office and AEDC recognizing this community’s commitment with their financial support, we are quickly becoming a region that companies want to utilize for advanced manufacturing, healthcare and IT jobs.”

The goal is to improve workforce development. Modeled after a program in Danville, Virginia

Hutchinson says when he started as governor, 54 public high schools didn’t have workforce training now only 2 don’t have workforce training. Soon it will be zero.

Hutchinson says, Arkansas now ranks 14th in the nation for high school graduation rates

In September 2019, the Fort Smith Public School District announced a $1.4 million grant from the federal government to help pay for a new career technology center.

A 180,000 square feet facility was donated to the school district for the program. When it’s done students will take classes to prepare them for careers in advance manufacturing, healthcare and information technology.

When the center opens in August of 2021, advanced Manufacturing students can earn technical concurrent credit, industry-recognized certifications, certificates of proficiency, technical certificates and potentially Associate Degrees in one of three Advanced Manufacturing pathways including Computer-Integrated Machining, Automation/Robotics and Industrial Maintenance.

Work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities will be available in partnership with area business and industry partners.

Computer-Integrated Machining will provide opportunities for students to learn in Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD), machine technology, setup, operations, metrology, lean manufacturing, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) manufacturing.

In Automation/Robotics students will learn Communication Systems, Advanced Electronic CircuitsProgrammable Logic Controller (PLC) systemsRobot Operations and Wireless Systems.

Industrial Maintenancestudents will learn Industrial Control Systems, Advanced Electronic Circuits, Energy Auditing, Wireless Systems, Hydraulics & Pneumatics and Robotics.

The grant money from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration will be used to transform the building.

Initially, it will accommodate 150 students in the mornings and another 150 in the afternoon with room to grow.

Classes will be taught by faculty from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.

This is all part of the school district Vision 2023 plan which led to a voter-approved a millage increase in 2018.

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