The U.S. Economic Development Administration on Friday awarded a $2.5 million grant to the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College of North Little Rock to launch the first phase of its STEM Park project.
The proposed, $10 million STEM Park aims to help fill a demand for jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. UA-PTC envisions a new two-story building adjacent to a remodeled existing science building, along with a new skybridge to connect the science and business/information technology building.
UA-PTC said Friday it will provide $653,230 in matching funds to remodel the science building, labs, and classrooms.
"This is an incredible gift and opportunity for our college and for the State," UA-PTC Chancellor Margaret Ellibee said in a news release. "It's a huge win for students who receive training for STEM careers and a win for businesses with access to a deeper pool of trained employees. UA-PTC's existing laboratory spaces can no longer serve student demand for our STEM classes, and we are turning away 200-300 students per semester due to inadequate and outdated facilities."
UA-PTC's STEM programs include allied health-related careers, advanced manufacturing, business/IT and cybersecurity tracks.
The Arkansas Economic Development Institute says there's a demand for 3,300 workers in the STEM fields in Arkansas, but the existing workforce has fewer than 2,800 workers. It expects that gap to grow to more than 2,000 by 2023.
UA-PTC wants its STEM program to eventually add 400 to 600 employees to the workforce per year over the next nine years.