A recent study by the Manufacturing Institute showed that nationally 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions.
To combat this growing problem, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) collaborated with 10 companies in western Arkansas to launch a pilot skills gap workforce program called Future Fit.
Through work with the participating companies, Future Fit has identified job roles and required skills that are needed to fill entry-level positions. Participants of Future Fit will complete a training program that will prepare them for entry-level employment with these companies. The first course will take approximately 120 hours of combined hands on and on-line training. Two additional courses are under development and will be ready later this month.
The UAM-CTC campus in Crossett will serve as a Future Fit training site. It will be offered at no cost to the student, because the costs are paid by the Arkansas Department of Commerce.
Future Fit is designed to accommodate a diverse group of people — high school graduates that do not plan to enroll in college; military veterans; the unemployed or underemployed; and non-violent offenders released by law enforcement.
There will be no enrollment cost to qualified students during the initial pilot program. Applicants must have a high school diploma or a GED and have earned a Bronze level ACT National Career Readiness Certificate as minimum qualification to enroll. As the Future Fit pilot program is monitored, AEDC plans to expand it to the entire state with industry-specific training for each region.
Knowing that manufacturing has been one of Arkansas’ top industries for years, AEDC monitors the state of the industry and aims to support employers. The Future Fit program is a direct effort to help Arkansas manufacturers continue to grow and employ a skilled workforce. A job in the manufacturing industry is one of the most stable and secure jobs.
The average tenure of workers in manufacturing jobs is the highest among all private sector industries at 9.1 years, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The turnover rate is also one of the lowest at 2.3 percent. Not only are these jobs stable, but they are also great paying jobs.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $81,289 — including pay and benefits — compared to $63,830 earned by other industries.
Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute project that over the next decade, more than 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be open due to the retirement of baby boomers and the continued strength of the economy. However, Arkansas manufacturing companies are having trouble filling these positions.
AEDC conducted more than 1,800 face-to-face meetings with local Arkansas companies and found approximately 10,000 unfilled jobs.
Of those unfilled jobs, 26.2 percent require no formal education and 52.5 percent require high school diploma or GED. The Future Fit program will help place qualified individuals directly into well-paying jobs with participating companies throughout Arkansas.
To apply for the Future Fit program at UAM-CTC, contact Campbell Wilkerson at 870-460-2028 or by email at Wilkerson@uamont.edu.