IT Readiness Program Collects Second Grant From State of Arkansas

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ROGERS, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Higher Education awarded a second grant to the University of Arkansas Global Campus for $851,062 to continue the development of information technology certificate programs, in partnership with local industry. The first grant for $48,954, awarded last fall, covered planning costs for this program, which is designed to fill a skills gap in Northwest Arkansas.

The “IT Readiness Initiative” is the product of a partnership between the Global Campus, Acxiom, Bentonville Public Schools, Collective Bias, Field Agent, J.B. Hunt, Metova Inc., Northwest Arkansas Community College, Northwest Arkanas Council, Northwest Technical Institute, RevUnit, Rockfish, Saatchi & Saatchi X, Springdale Public Schools, Startup Junkie, Tata Consultancy Services and Walmart Stores, Inc. The purpose of the professional certificate program is to provide people in the region with the workforce skills and certifications needed to satisfy existing and future industry needs.

Students can register online for the IT Readiness certificate programs.

“We are truly thankful for all of our partners who have made it possible to launch a program of this magnitude,” said Tara Dryer, director of training, corporate development and academic outreach for the Global Campus. “This program will help people train for higher-paying IT jobs and will provide industry with a more qualified pool of job applicants.”

“The development of the IT Readiness certificate program is a testament to the commitment of the University of Arkansas and the state to enhancing and expanding workforce development offerings,” said Donald Judges, U of A interim vice provost for distance education. “This program, guided by industry leaders, will strengthen economic growth in the region by addressing gaps in the regional workforce.”

The Regional Workforce Implementation Grant will allow Global Campus to purchase equipment and hire instructors to teach courses in the areas of mobile app development, front- and back-end development, Java and analytics.

RevUnit, working with the Global Campus and other partners, is developing the IT curriculum for the IT programs. The Global Campus also is collaborating with the U of A Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

"We performed a deep dive into local job openings to identify the skills needed to be hired as an intern or junior-level developer,” said Michael Paladino, co-founder and chief technology officer of RevUnit. “From this set of skills, we derived a curriculum that is accessible to someone who has never written code. The goal of this process has been that through these certificate programs and connections with our industry partners, someone who has never written code can have the opportunity to start a career as a software developer."

Industry partners have identified the most critical skills shortages and are working with the Global Campus to develop and deliver the curriculum for information technology and analytics certificate programs. The Global Campus also oversees the grants and manages the project.

Dryer and Starlyn Danley, coordinator for computer training at the Global Campus, worked closely in recent years with local chambers of commerce, the Northwest Arkansas Council and local industry to build the groundwork for this workforce initiative. Stakeholders met in August to formalize strategic plans and apply for the grant.

The project’s offerings will run from basic to advanced levels and from short courses to lengthier certificate programs, according to the grant application. It will serve high school graduates, employed IT professionals, career changers, and those looking to get a job in the IT sector, offering different tracks to help people start, advance their careers, or pursue a college degree.

Successful participants can earn U of A certificates, once developed, in areas such as programing, big data, mobile app development, and website development, as well as prepare for industry certifications.

NEXT STEPS

Both the Global Campus and Bentonville High School offer courses now that are geared toward filling workforce gaps. With the second grant in place, the IT Readiness Initiative will accelerate, enhance and expand these efforts.

The last step will be applying for the Continuation phase of the Regional Workforce Development Grant in 2018, which will seek continued funding to build on the success of the program, Dryer said.

The initiative’s advisory/steering committee and industry partners are working closely with the Global Campus to ensure content and curriculum are aligned with workforce needs.

Business partners, the subject matter experts, will help identify skills gaps and labor needs in the region, as well as contribute course content and curriculum, facilitate courses, contribute to the development of success measurements, and provide feedback from employees and supervisors within their organizations. The Global Campus and Bentonville Public Schools will provide educational expertise.

Contacts

Tara Dryer, director of training, corporate development and academic outreach
Global Campus
479-464-5024, tdryer@uark.edu

Starlyn Danley, coordinator for computer training programs
Global Campus
479-464-5024, danley@uark.edu

Kay Murphy, director of communications
Global Campus
479-575-6489, ksmurphy@uark.edu

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