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Mr. Edward Ferguson was employed by IC Corporation, a large assembly plant that built school buses in Conway Arkansas. When IC Corporation underwent a consolidation of its manufacturing plants, unfortunately, all operations went to Tulsa and the plant in Conway, Arkansas was shut down. Edward was one of the many employees who were laid off due to the plant closure.

As Edward began searching for a new career, he reflected on the many times he had joked about “if he ever had time, he’d help his friends in the funeral industry”. His colleagues, who were employed for Roller-McNutt Funeral home in Conway, informed him that a position may be coming open in the near future. This welcome news came as a major relief; however, Edward knew he did not have the skills and/or knowledge needed to qualify for this new role.

However, his concern was short lived as Edward remembered attending a “job fair” where he heard about the Central Arkansas Workforce Centers and how they provided assistance for those looking to reenter the workforce. Edward made an appointment to meet with staff at the Central Arkansas Workforce Center in Conway and a plan was developed for Edward to gain the knowledge needed to become an asset in the funeral industry. Upon enrolling at Arkansas State University to begin his education, Edward, under what can best be described as an apprenticeship, also began working for Roller-McNutt Funeral Home. Roller McNutt coordinated with the Arkansas Workforce Center to ensure scheduling would not be conflictive; thereby, allowing Edward to attend classes two days a week while gaining valuable experience in his newly chosen profession.

Edwards’s training has not only led him back to full-time employment, but he has earned a plethora of promotions and acknowledgements within the company as well. He began working for the company full time as the Directors Assistant and then upon completion his education at Arkansas State University, he was promoted to the position of “Funeral Director of Embalming” and has since received a major promotion to “Assistant Manager” at Roller-McNutt. Edward has said that when he was laid off at fifty years old, he wasn’t sure if he could start a new career in today’s competitive job market. Edward also has a message for workers his age who get laid off and that is “It is never too late to change careers.”

Without the Arkansas Workforce Center staff, Edward said he would have been discouraged a long time ago. The Arkansas Workforce Center enabled him to obtain the education and training needed at a time when he could not afford the cost. Edward’s story may not be unique to what occurs on a daily basis in Arkansas Workforce Centers; yet, Edwards’s experience serves as a perfect example of the success that can be achieved from Public-Private Partnerships. Edward’s example is also an illustration of how the Arkansas Workforce Centers and the private sector can work together to benefit both the job seekers and job creators.

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