Superintendents, high school principals and counselors, and the directors of career and technical secondary education centers in southeast Arkansas will meet in December as part of a collaborative effort by the University of Arkansas at Monticello, area school districts and industries to change the economic outlook of the region.

The meeting will be held on December 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Southeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative in Monticello.

UAM recently received a Regional Workforce Grant for $84,810 and an additional $25,000 from the Delta Regional Authority to create the Workforce Alliance of Southeast Arkansas. The Alliance includes UAM’s main campus in Monticello, its technical campuses in Crossett and McGehee, along with companies ranging from large industries to small family businesses. Its purpose is to provide adults with the necessary skills to fill available jobs and encourage more businesses to move their operations to southeast Arkansas, an area of the state with a declining population.

UAM will host sessions to listen to employers and educators with the focus on how to better prepare the workforce in southeast Arkansas.
School districts expected to be represented at the December 9 meeting include Crossett, Dermott, Drew Central, Dumas, Hamburg, Hermitage, Lake Village, McGehee, Monticello, Rison, Star City, Warren and Woodlawn. Also attending will be the directors of the Monticello Occupational Education Center and the Southeast Arkansas Community-Based Education Center in Warren.

The proposal presented by the Workforce Alliance of Southeast Arkansas calls for adding an associate degree program in diesel training at the Monticello campus and an electromechanical technology program at the UAM College of Technology-McGehee.

UAM officials hope to have a completed plan ready for implementation by April. “In so many rural institutions, you have students who come to you, and a lot of times you’re training them for jobs that do not exist in your community,” UAM’s Interim Chancellor Jay Jones recently told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “In certain disciplines, they go outside the region to fulfill employment.

“For us, it’s how do we attract industry and business in this area so that we can employ the people who come to us for training and the people who grew up in southeast Arkansas,” Jones said.

The Regional Workforce Grant received by UAM was created by the Workforce Initiative Act of 2015.

For more information, contact Campbell Wilkerson, business and industry liaison for the Workforce Alliance of Southeast Arkansas, at (870) 460-2027.