GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson proposed creating regional “Workforce Education Councils” to better assess worker needs for employers and to streamline funding for workforce education in Arkansas.
The plan calls for eight workforce groups would require high schools, two-year colleges, and local employers to assess jobs needs across their regions and to coordinate a plan of action for educating potential workers for those available jobs.
“My number one priority is economic growth and job creation in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “If we are serious about growing Arkansas’s economy, then we have to be serious about training our workforce. We have an opportunity to create a competitive edge in recruiting industry to Arkansas. We are competing for jobs in the global marketplace and the jobs will flow to those states with the skilled workers and with an educational system that matches the training to the technology of the workplace.”
Hutchinson said the plan goes beyond the proposed workforce education changes announced in late February by Gov. Mike Beebe and Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, who changed her vote on the private option in support of a workforce overhaul.
Hutchinson said his plan would offer an accountability for nearly $34 million being spent on workforce training. He said his councils would have six months after formation to present a plan for their efforts.
“The goal of this plan is to take advantage of the renewed focus in the United States on the return of manufacturing from overseas,” he said. “Arkansas is in a perfect position to compete in the world marketplace for the thousands of manufacturing and technical jobs that will be created in the next decade.
Mike Ross, the Democratic frontrunner for Governor, issued a statement through his spokesman, Brad Howard.
“It’s ironic that after a career in Washington voting and lobbying against Arkansas’s working families, Congressman Hutchinson has finally tried to own up to the problems he helped create,” Howard said. “After all, Congressman Hutchinson voted for trade policies that shipped our jobs overseas and lobbied for big corporations that outsourced good-paying jobs to countries like India and the Philippines. Perhaps if Congressman Hutchinson had spent more time here in Arkansas rather than living, working and lobbying in the Washington, D.C., area, he would have recognized the harmful effects of his record much sooner.”