Nov 6, 2021 - News

How NWA schools are addressing our need for tech workers

photo of nwacc

NWACC has several programs for tech careers. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

NorthWest Arkansas Community College just launched the first course of its coding boot camps in October.

  • They're designed to put students on the fast track to learning multiple skills, like JavaScript and HTML, says Evetta Aldridge, director of training and community development at NWACC.

State of play: In addition to associate degrees at NWACC, the community college and the U of A's global campus both offer training programs aimed at recent high school graduates and adults wanting to "upskill," as in gain training that will help them get a promotion, says Aldridge and Mark Berkowick, assistant director of IT readiness at the global campus.

  • NWACC is the only accredited Amazon Web Services Academy in Arkansas that offers a certificate in cloud computing, Aldridge adds.
  • Two of the three courses, cloud foundations and cloud architecting, are already offered. Data analytics is coming summer 2022.

Context: Educators at NWACC at U of A say they’re seeing students come in with interest and knowledge in computer science-related fields. That's in part because of increased general access to technology. It's also because of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s computer science initiative aimed at offering computer science courses to all Arkansas high school students.

  • Computer science will be a requirement for high school graduation starting next year.

By the numbers: The number of Arkansas high school students taking a computer science course has grown from 1,104 in the 2014-15 school year to 12,547 this school year, Hutchinson said during an October news conference.

  • Paul Cronan, director of graduate programs in information technology at U of A, says promoting computer science opportunities during high school has led to an increase in female students pursuing these fields, which are male-dominated.

The intrigue: All of the entities work with local businesses to see what they need. Cronan says degree-track students are best equipped to get jobs and have competitive salaries if they cover their bases by adding minors to their major.

  • For example, maybe they major in accounting but add a minor in business analytics or cybersecurity.

What's next: A new master's degree at U of A in health care business analytics is in the works, Cronan says. This is needed because of the growing health care industry in NWA that requires people who can work in patient records, for example.


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