The Arkansas Department of Commerce has launched a new initiative to designate high-achieving state college workforce training programs that meet specific regional workforce needs in high-demand fields as “Centers of Excellence.”
The initiative, implemented through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), was recommended by several two-year colleges last year and is intended to strengthen partnerships between colleges and industry.
To achieve designation as a Center of Excellence, participating colleges must undergo a certification process that will strengthen already existing partnerships between local colleges and industry. Colleges that attain this designation will not only create a brand that students will recognize as a trusted pathway to quality employment but will also signal to businesses that program graduates have the skills required of specific industries in their communities.
To ensure that the evaluations are conducted objectively and measured against the highest standards, the Center of Excellence examination and assessment process will utilize criteria established by the Baldrige Excellence Framework, an assessment standard created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
This initiative will be implemented in partnership with the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE), a branch of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. The AIPE provides training and assessments for businesses that wish to improve their organizational performance. Annually, representatives of more than 60 businesses across the state participate in AIPE examiner training to learn how to identify key practices for business excellence.