Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed into law three Senate bills that will work to overhaul his workforce education initiative.
In a bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol, Hutchinson said the bills would “really enhance our ability to improve job-skill training in Arkansas.”
“This is one of the crying needs of our state, to drive economic development, to make sure that we can compete with our other national partners and states in terms recruiting industry, and to support the existing industry we have. To do that, we had to have a more robust system of job-skill training that matches the needs of industry,” Hutchinson said.
Senate Bill 368 will create a Career Education and Workforce Development Board, which will aid in the creation of a statewide workforce education program at a cost of $15 million. Senate Bill 891 will create a program through the Department of Education that will offer planning grants to workforce training programs in two-year colleges and schools. According to Hutchinson, $2 million will go toward the grants.
Lastly, Senate Bill 791 will see the creation of the Arkansas Workforce Development Board, who will work to advise the governor on needs of the workforce. A plan will be created to make the best use of federal funding for workforce training programs.
Hutchinson went on to say that the success of the program will come from a number of performance measures, including how many schools participate in workforce training programs, how many students graduate with workforce training, and how well industry needs are met.
Education Commissioner Johnny Key said that the initiative would not mean students across the state would be pushed away from entering a four-year college.
“There are going to be students there that want to stay there so they’re going to want to be in tune with the workforce needs of that area so they can make a living and stay home.” Key continued, “others are going to be ready to get out in the world and we have to prepare for both scenarios.”
The governor said he plans to be personally involved in the workplace reforms, which will be led by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet chaired by the governor. He went on to say that the cabinet “will drive this everyday to make sure we can meet those performance measures to make sure that we can be successful and lead the South in job skill training.”