ABB provides UAFS $1 million to create advanced workforce training program

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,160 views 

A robot on the floor of ABB's manufacturing plant in Fort Smith.

ABB announced Tuesday (May 2) it will invest $1 million with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) to help the university use post-secondary education programs to create a pipeline of technical talent in western Arkansas.

The intent of the investment, ABB officials said at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C., is to position the school as one of the nation’s leading advanced manufacturing educational institutions. The announcement followed ABB’s recent announcement that it will invest $170 million in manufacturing and distribution operations in 2023.

ABB officials said the fast pace of technology advancement and the need of U.S. manufacturers to fill 4 million jobs by 2030 makes collaboration with community-based partners essential to long-term growth and success.

Zurich, Switzerland-based ABB acquired in early 2011 what was then Fort Smith-based Baldor Electric Co. in a $4.2 billion deal. At the time, Baldor employed between 7,000 and 7,500 in 26 plants in five countries and sales offices serving more than 80 countries. About 2,000 were then employed in the Fort Smith area.

UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley said the $1 million will provide the university with foundational funds to create a premier center for advanced manufacturing. She said providing UAFS students the skills they need to thrive in a global employment market ensures that graduates are competitive in their careers while also helping to address a critical staffing shortage UAFS manufacturing partners face across the globe.

“We will use these initial funds to support curriculum development and state-of-the-art laboratories on our main campus. … This gift puts UAFS in the very fortunate position to align academic programs, both for-credit and non-credit, with the aptitude and abilities of our students to create exceptionally career-ready graduates,” Riley said.

UAFS and ABB are long-standing partners in education and workforce development programs that create pathways for students and early career professionals to develop skills in advanced manufacturing as well as training for existing workers, a news release said. The initiative funded by the investment will focus primarily on postsecondary education with a curriculum designed by UAFS for roles in advanced manufacturing, engineering, automation, design process, and technology for manufacturing.

“In order to compete on a global scale, U.S. manufacturers like ABB must invest in a continuous pipeline of technically skilled talent,” said Jesse Henson, president of ABB NEMA Motors Division. “Driven by our partnership with UAFS, we are rethinking the way communities approach career and technical education in the K-12 and university systems to build strong relationships with businesses and customers.”

Workforce development programs at UAFS work with students, whether they are traditional students, adult learners, displaced workers, or veterans, to develop the skills necessary to compete in today’s labor market, the news release said. Officials said workforce development investment benefits the entire region served by UAFS and advanced skills training enables U.S. manufacturers to compete globally.

Since 2010, ABB has invested $14 billion in the U.S. through acquisitions, plant expansions, operational improvements, modern equipment, products, and people, making it the company’s largest market. The company has approximately 20,000 U.S. employees in more than 40 manufacturing and distribution facilities.