UA Little Rock partners with ACDS to create career pathway for computer science students

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 136 views 

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is partnering with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS) to create a new program that will strengthen educational pathways for computer science and cybersecurity majors at UA Little Rock while helping to fill the workforce gap for Arkansas employers.

The program will emphasize a combination of scholarships, internships, apprenticeships, talent management, and workforce development with ACDS industry partners to help provide a career path for UA Little Rock students to fill the state’s growing need for information technology workers.

“We are privileged and excited to present this unique, new opportunity for students, employers, UA Little Rock, ACDS, and the workforce of the State of Arkansas,” said Dr. Albert Baker, chair of the Department of Computer Science at UA Little Rock. “As students receive an internship and/or apprenticeship through our partnership with ACDS, our highly qualified students can graduate with a good amount of experience, all while receiving academic credit and a fair wage for their work.”

The UA Little Rock Department of Computer Science has several endowed scholarships that they are using to attract high school students while providing support for freshmen and sophomores.

“This is our innovative approach to solve the tech talent gap,” said Lonnie Emard, director of apprenticeship at Arkansas Center for Data Sciences. “Whether we are finding college students who haven’t had the chance for an internship or recruiting those who haven’t had a chance to go to college, we knew we needed to find a way to nurture our efforts to add capacity to our skilled workforce in the state. With this partnership, we can give a lot more students the chance to cut their teeth on meaningful work experience earlier in their college career so they can solidify their career paths.”

Students who apply for an internship and/or apprenticeship with ACDS will undergo a competitive application process including a technical and critical thinking assessment, interviews, and a background check. Once approved, successful applicants will receive talent career training before they are matched with one of ACDS’s industry partners.

Students who are selected for internships will work and receive mentorship experience while interning for one with of ACDS’s employer partners. The ACDS provides wages for the interns, which are sponsored by federal grants ACDS has received.

Meanwhile, students selected for apprenticeships will be hired as full-time employees with benefits who receive on-the-job training from an experienced mentor while earning a competitive salary. Most apprenticeships last at least one year, which gives the student time to complete their undergraduate degree. Apprentices have the added bonus that some of their work is eligible for academic credit. If they work for a company that provides tuition reimbursement, the apprentice may be eligible to use these benefits for their remaining credit hours as they complete their college degree.

“Students who follow this career pathway program will graduate with lower net expenses and real work experience that will definitely make them stand out on their resumes,” Baker said. “They will enter the workforce with knowledge of all the great employers that are available in Arkansas so that we can retain our homegrown talent.”

Since ACDS began its apprenticeship program, 127 partner companies have provided 700 apprenticeships to Arkansas residents.