Updated Nov 2, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on workforce development in Northwest Arkansas

On Tuesday, November 2nd, Axios Local correspondent Alex Golden discussed how local investments, schools and partnerships are accelerating workforce growth in Northwest Arkansas, featuring NorthWest Arkansas Community College president Evelyn Jorgenson and Excellerate Foundation CEO Jeff Webster.

Evelyn Jorgenson highlighted how community colleges can design programs to equip students for specific careers, efforts to accommodate adult learners hoping to reskill through a new degree, and what she hopes future workforce development programs will look like.

  • On preparing students for jobs relevant to the community: “We also know that community college students here...over 90% of the graduates desire to stay and will stay in Northwest Arkansas. We think that is significant because it means that the people who are accepting jobs...are more likely to stay in the area and continue in employment.”
  • On developing programs that respond to local employment shortages: “There’s a lot of employment needed in this area, and for Northwest Arkansas, that includes computer support, specialized web developers...that’s part of the reason why we are ramping up the number of programs that we offer related to those high tech needs for the area.”

Jeff Webster illustrated how to determine what jobs are most needed in the local area, how community members can support workforce development in their region, and financial resources that expand access to up-skilling programs.

  • On the need for better paying jobs in the area: “There’s a big part of our population that don’t have a lot of disposable income, could use a better paying job, but for whatever reason in life, they may not have had the same types of opportunities as other people in the area...they’ve got the intellect, the perseverance, the drive to take on a better paying job, they just need some help that maybe others of us have had through our families, et cetera.”
  • On the need for strategic plans for workforce development: “It’s pretty well known for an emerging country or nation that wants to get ahead, the key to that oftentimes is better skills for their constituents. So as a state, we want to continue to move forward.”

Axios VP of Growth Mia Vallo hosted a View from the Top segment with Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program director Robert Burns, who explained how local workforce development programs and re-skilling initiatives help people respond to the evolving job market.

  • “We have a significant need for everything from folks in the medical field, to technology, to hospitality, and there’s a need growing across the region for those types of skills among many skills that are needed. It’s ensuring that local systems support the communities that need to get up-skilled, that the institutions here can afford individuals that opportunity, and that the local system has the type of training needed to be able to respond to those areas.”

Thank you Walton Family Foundation for sponsoring this event.

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