Entergy Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Education announced Tuesday a $482,000 grant to develop 20 new Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses.
The courses will be available to high school students in July. Employers and employees will have access to them at a nominal cost by fall 2021.
Based on research and input from Arkansas businesses regarding their workforce needs, the grant will support courses on industrial equipment technologies; precision machining; machine power and equipment systems; mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems; metal fabrication and more.
"In addition to affordable and reliable electricity, we need a good business environment, good transportation and qualified employees to help businesses grow if we want our state and communities to be successful," Entergy Arkansas President and CEO Laura Landreaux said in a news release. "To that end, Entergy Arkansas is proud to support these efforts with nearly a half a million dollars from the Entergy Charitable Foundation."
Landreaux said a separate online portal will be built to make the CTE courses available to people already in the workplace who are looking to learn new skills and advance their careers.
"We are excited to partner with Entergy Arkansas to offer additional CTE courses to students around the state," Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key said. "CTE is essential, as it provides high school students the opportunity to build workforce skills that will enhance learning and employability; 53% of CTE students earn a median income of $55,000 or higher after graduation, and 68% of students who complete a CTE program of study earn a post-secondary credential. These additional opportunities will expand the workforce pipeline to address critical economic development needs."
When schools closed in the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CTE students lost access to in-person instruction and hands-on experience. So the Education Department began working with $300,000 in federal CARES Act money to develop a plan for online and blended learning with its CTE Playbook, a template for 80 classes in multiple areas such as business and marketing, agriculture technology, STEM and welding. New CTE courses beyond the 20 funded by the grant will be made available over the next two years. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Office of Skills Development will also provide consultation on their development.
The CTE grant is part of $1.13 million Entergy Arkansas and the Entergy Charitable Foundation has committed in Arkansas over the past five years to develop the state's workforce and support its customers and communities.
"Technology has advanced tremendously in the last few years while Arkansas competes every day in recruiting for new and expanding business," Danny Games, business and economic development director at Entergy Arkansas, said in the release. "These companies require an educated and skilled workforce that can satisfy their needs and, in turn, provide higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs. These CTE courses should benefit students and their potential employers for years to come."
Entergy Arkansas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., and the grant is also part of Entergy Corp.'s initiative to provide $5 million to develop the workforce and support its customers and communities across its four-state utility service area.