The Arkansas Department of Commerce is launching an initiative to recognize state college workforce training programs that are tackling workforce needs for in-demand fields.
Colleges that meet regional workforce needs will be designated “Centers of Excellence,” through this initiative. In order to receive the designation, colleges must undergo a certification process using criteria developed by the Baldridge Excellence Framework, which was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
This initiative has been implemented by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), an agency within the Department of Commerce. AEDC will partner with the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE) – part of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce – on the program, with AIPE bringing experience in business assessment and examination.
“This initiative benefits businesses, students, and educational institutions,” Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said in a statement “With the implementation of this initiative, colleges and workforce centers will receive recognition for their efforts to design and deliver training for a high-demand skill specific to industry needs; students will be able to identify which school is best equipped to provide training specific to their desired career path; and businesses seeking to expand or relocate will be able to determine which regions and communities will be best equipped to address their targeted workforce needs. This initiative is a win-win for all parties and will ultimately help drive our economy by better meeting industry demand.”
Colleges seeking designation must demonstrate “outstanding workforce training unique to the industry needs of its community,” according to an AEDC release.
According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Centers of Excellence program was developed in response to requests from two-year colleges in Arkansas. This program, he said, will help attract employers to Arkansas and encourage existing ones to expand.
“Employers deciding whether to expand or relocate their businesses almost always make their decisions based on access to talented, skilled labor. The initiative to designate qualifying two-year colleges as Centers of Excellence creates pathways for role-model institutions to affirmatively respond to local and regional workforce demand, Hutchinson said.