Ozarka College, based in Melbourne, has been selected as a recipient of the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) grant, a federal grant program through the U.S. Department of Labor and Delta Regional Authority. Ozarka was awarded $1.47 million toward a three-year workforce development initiative based at Ozarka’s new Carpenter Technical Center in Ash Flat, Arkansas.
“The WORC grant will provide crucial funding to expand industry-informed technical education opportunities for our region,” said Dr. Richard Dawe, Ozarka College president. “We are collaborating with industry and community partners to strengthen our workforce pipeline by continuing to offer life-changing experiences through education.”
The Delta Regional Authority in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor announced a $14.6 million investment into 13 organizations throughout the eight-state Delta region to expand the impact of workforce development efforts in a second round of grant funding through the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) initiative.
“For rural communities to be competitive today, we must ensure economic development and skills development go hand in hand,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell. “Through the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities initiative, the Delta Regional Authority enables Delta communities to strengthen workforce pipelines and continue upward economic mobility.”
Ozarka’s Regional Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (ORWORC) initiative will provide support for the coordination of a regional industry and workforce alliance; startup capital and equipment for industry-driven programs, including welding and industrial manufacturing; and case management and career development services for participants. In collaboration with industry and community stakeholders, including economic development partner Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority, the project will enable the Ozarka team to serve an 11-county service area, including three border counties in Missouri.
“The Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority congratulates Ozarka College on this historic grant award for the Carpenter Technical Center in Ash Flat”, said NARIA Executive Director Graycen Colbert Bigger. “We are honored to serve as the economic development partner on this project, which will provide valuable workforce training to Sharp County and the surrounding area for years to come. The NEA Intermodal remains committed to working alongside Ozarka College and local partners to meet the diverse needs of industry and community.”
The ORWORC initiative will advance a regional pipeline for new entrants to the workforce as well as dislocated and incumbent workers. Specifically, the project will deliver workplace readiness training, offer industry credentialing opportunities, and provide work-based learning experiences.
The federally supported project is officially underway as of September 30, 2020. The grant program will support initial salary support for a director of the Carpenter Technical Center in Ash Flat and two new faculty for the welding and industrial manufacturing programs. The Vice President of Advancement will provide oversight for the project in close coordination with other members of the Ozarka leadership team.
The federal award comes on the heels of a pandemic-stalled capital campaign for Ozarka’s new technical center in Sharp County. Prior to the pandemic, the Ozarka College Foundation had successfully raised $180,000 toward initial renovation for the Carpenter Technical Center’s first programs: Automotive Service and Diesel Mechanics.