The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) celebrated the grand opening of its new Workforce Training Center on Tuesday (Sept. 21) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its annual community picnic on the school’s campus.
The Workforce Training Center was created in response to the need for technically skilled workers in the state. The technical training facility mimics a workplace environment, while maintaining a flexible space conducive to teaching and learning, the school said.
Construction of the facility cost $2.5 million and equipment cost about $1 million, school officials told Talk Business & Politics. The construction was paid with $500,000 from institutional reserves and $2 million was borrowed from the College Savings Bond Loan Fund at less than 1% interest rate. Equipment for the center was purchased with a combination of funds from Arkansas Division of Higher Education Regional Workforce Grant; Federal Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Grant; Secondary Career Center funding from the Arkansas Office of Skills Development and other, smaller grants.
“The opening of the Workforce Training Center is a milestone moment in UACCB’s history,” Zach Harber, UACCB director of career and technical education said. “Our hope is that this center will be a marker for an increase in skilled education in the state. We visited similar training facilities around the country to understand what type of facility would provide the best access and training for the community and we are pleased with the outcome.”
In keeping with UACCB’s mission, the Workforce Development program partners with area business and industry members to help identify and meet their workforce training needs. Key industries that will benefit from the center regionally are advanced manufacturing, construction, HVAC, machining, industrial maintenance, industrial safety and welding trades.
“UACCB is committed to creating a skilled, educated workforce to support the industry needs of our community,” said Zach Perrine, UACCB interim chancellor and vice chancellor for student affairs. “There is a proven need for skilled workers across the state and that is precisely why this center is so vital both locally and statewide. We are proud to continue to bring high quality education to this region.”
Since January of this year, 415 students have taken college credit courses through the Workforce Training Center program. This does not include non-credit community members who have participated in training. According to Arkansas Division on Higher Education 2020 data, students who complete the entire two years of the program earn on average $44,057 annually one year after graduation.
While the center will benefit communities statewide, it will have a significant impact on the Independence County community through its partnership with community organizations and the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The future success of our community relies on our ability to create, sustain, and retain a viable workforce,” said Crystal Johnson, president and CEO of Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Workforce Training Center will support the needs of business and industry by developing the talent pipeline and creating a vibrant workforce to support our community for years to come. We are fortunate to have strong leadership at UACCB which resulted in the Workforce Training Center being located in our own backyard.”
“We are proud to collaborate with UACCB to see the Workforce Training Center be used to the advantage of our community,” said Jan Smith, White River Planning and Development District executive director. “This type of training is necessary in order to see our clients succeed and gives them opportunities that they may not otherwise have readily available. We appreciate UACCB and the continued partnership through the center to see our shared goal of bringing Batesville, and the surrounding communities, resources for success.”