As a state's problems go, low unemployment is a good one to have, but it does spell difficulty for Arkansas employers, particularly those seeking highly skilled workers.
Arkansas Business reporter Sarah Campbell-Miller talked to some of those employers for her cover story this week on the rise of robotics in manufacturing. "The steel fabrication industry is experiencing a significant shortage of skilled craftsmen," Patrick Schueck, president of Little Rock's Lexicon, told Campbell-Miller.
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And such worker shortages can stymie company growth.
In Ashley County, Georgia-Pacific has partnered with the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology-Crossett on a pilot apprentice-style program to develop the workers that GP needs but has had trouble finding. The Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program combines classroom education with on-the-job training and pays students for their work at the GP paper mill in Crossett.
A program participant, Timothy Griffin, called it "a great opportunity to get the experience and get the schooling at the same time."
President Donald Trump has voiced support for apprenticeship programs, and on June 15, he signed an executive order to double tax dollars spent on apprenticeship programs in the U.S., to $200 million, with that sum coming from existing job training programs.
However, Trump is simultaneously proposing cutting federal job training funding by up to 40 percent, which could jeopardize the very apprenticeship programs he's promoting.
Much factory work has evolved from the days of repetitive manual labor requiring few skills, and now it can provide well-paying jobs. Apprenticeships can be a route to these jobs. We only hope the government follows through on its pledge to support these programs that benefit both American workers and American employers.