State promotes 2 programs to increase job training and add job options

Developing career options and strengthening job training took center stage last week with a focus on two programs that state officials hope will prepare more Arkansans for work.

On Thursday, the state’s Office of Skills Development said it would expand a trial, launched last fall, to use virtual reality simulations to help Arkansans explore career paths and advance options. training for job seekers.

Earlier in the week, Governor Asa Hutchinson was in Jonesboro to distribute $8 million in workforce training grants to nine organizations across the state dedicated to industry-led job training to increase economic development opportunities in local communities and expand career options and wages for workers. .

Cody Waits, director of the Arkansas Department of Commerce’s Office of Skills Development, said virtual reality training will roll out statewide and reach up to 4,500 Arkansans this year. The pilot program has been tested at 15 sites and has helped train more than 205 students since its launch in the fall.

Virtual reality simulations provide a real-world experience for job seekers and students exploring career options, giving them hands-on training in a variety of fast-growing jobs and industries. Officials say the program will allow participants to explore different career options across multiple sectors.

“This statewide program is an example of how we can combine innovative technologies with our existing career and technical education resources to help more students prepare for new career horizons and meet the skilled labor needs of employers,” Waits said.

The program uses technology developed by TRANSFR, which says its tool safely replicates a work environment anywhere – in rural areas, at home or in schools – without the overhead of a training center. of several million dollars.

The company says its technology also reduces training time compared to a traditional on-the-job or classroom training environment. Participants get an inside view of technical roles and industries – including manufacturing, skilled trades, warehousing and storage, hospitality, public safety, and automotive, among others.

The Skills Development Office is working with colleges and universities, community colleges, high schools, regional workforce councils, economic development organizations and private employers as part of the wide launch of the state.

Students looking for a career will find the program especially helpful, Waits says, because they can explore multiple options and get a hands-on feel for what life at a particular job is like on a day-to-day basis.

Altec, which specializes in manufacturing and servicing equipment in the power utility, telecommunications and contract sectors, is also involved in deployment, using virtual reality technology and training to help To hire an additional 300 technicians across the country, Altec has sponsored the Altec Technician Training Program at Arkansas State University at Beebe. The program uses virtual reality to help students earn a diesel technology certificate and prepare for technician roles within Altec’s workforce.

“This partnership will help more Arkansas residents explore career paths in the industries that need it most – and understand the education and training options available to help them take their next career step,” said Kenneth Calhoun, manager of fleet optimization at Altec.


The Little Rock Venture Center has postponed its first VenCent Fintech Summit, moving the event to August 15-17 in Little Rock to avoid complications from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The conference has established a national roster of banking and financial technology experts as speakers.

VenCent will include classes taught by banking and innovation experts, live product demos by the Venture Center’s most successful alumni fintech accelerators, and valuable collaboration with industry leaders. banking.

“The banking industry is driving growth and innovation through fintech partnerships, and at a breakneck pace,” said Wayne Miller, executive director of the Venture Center. “That’s why we created VenCent – to provide bankers with a place to learn from other bankers about the next steps in the industry and participate in shaping the future of the industry.”

Participants will gain access to fintech companies from around the world, deepen their connections to an innovative banking community, and deepen their understanding of the regulatory environment for banking innovation.

More information is available at


The Arkansans who received Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) from the US Small Business Administration now have more time to repay the funds. SBA has loaned more than $1.8 million to nearly 23,000 Arkansas under the program.

The federal agency is giving borrowers a total of 30 months of deferral from the start of all approved EIDL loans. The extended adjournment period will provide additional flexibility for small business owners who have been hit hard by the pandemic or those struggling with supply chain and inflation issues.

“This extended deferral of principal and interest will provide financial relief to millions of small business owners – especially those hardest hit by the pandemic and related market challenges – so they can continue to pivot, adapt and grow,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas. Guzman.

Nationally, the covid EIDL program has allocated more than $351 billion in assistance to 3.9 million borrowers, including the smallest of small businesses in historically underserved and disadvantaged communities.

During the pandemic, the SBA increased the cap on EIDL financing to $2 million per borrower and allowed loan funds to be used for all normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, l purchase of equipment and repayment of debt.

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