Entergy Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Education announced Tuesday (Dec. 8) a $482,000 grant that will be used to develop 20 new Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses that will be available to high school students and adults next fall.
“In addition to affordable and reliable electricity, we need a good business environment, good transportation and qualified employees to help businesses grow if we want our state and communities to be successful,” said Entergy Arkansas President and CEO Laura Landreaux. “To that end, Entergy Arkansas is proud to support these efforts with nearly a half a million dollars from the Entergy Charitable Foundation.”
The majority of high school students in Arkansas are enrolled in one or more CTE programs of study, which are designed to prepare them for college and careers after graduation.
“We are excited to partner with Entergy Arkansas to offer additional CTE courses to students around the state,” said Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key. “CTE is essential, as it provides high school students the opportunity to build workforce skills that will enhance learning and employability. 53% of CTE students earn a median income of $55,000 or higher after graduation and 68% of students who complete a CTE program of study earn a post-secondary credential. These additional opportunities will expand the workforce pipeline to address critical economic development needs.”
When schools closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, CTE students no longer had access to in-person instruction and hands-on experience, possibly contributing to a gap in the pipeline of prepared workers, according to a news release. As a result, the Department of Education started to work with $300,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to develop a plan for online and blended learning with its CTE Playbook, a template for 80 classes in multiple areas such as business and marketing; agriculture technology; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and welding.
The department is partnering with Entergy Arkansas to create 20 additional courses to better prepare students for jobs in manufacturing and industry because of the need for more trade and industry coursework. Arkansas businesses also provided input regarding their workforce needs in determining the courses.
The following are among the 20 courses that will be available to students in the 2021-2022 school year: Online CTE coursework in industrial equipment technologies; precision machining; machine power and equipment systems; mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems; and metal fabrication.
“Technology has advanced tremendously in the last few years while Arkansas competes every day in recruiting for new and expanding business,” said Danny Games, director for Entergy Arkansas Business and Economic Development. “These companies require an educated and skilled workforce that can satisfy their needs and, in turn, provide higher-skilled and higher-paying jobs. These CTE courses should benefit students and their potential employers for years to come.”
The 20 new Trade and Industry CTE courses will be available to high school students in July 2021, while other CTE courses will be available over the next two years. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Office of Skills Development will provide additional consultation to reflect business and industry needs.
“I am also glad to announce that a separate portal will be built to make these CTE courses available to persons already in the workplace who are looking to learn new skills and advance their careers,” Landreaux said. “Our message is this — if you missed out on opportunities like this in high school, a little time and energy on nights and weekends now can mean more opportunities for advancement and a better-paying job in the future.”
Employers and employees will have access to the 20 new courses at a nominal cost by fall 2021.
The CTE grant was made possible by Entergy Arkansas and the Entergy Charitable Foundation as part of $1.13 million Entergy has invested or committed in Arkansas over the past five years to develop the state’s workforce and support its customers and communities.
Other investments include $50,000 to the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce Be Pro, Be Proud initiative; $350,000 for the Academics of Central Arkansas; and $250,000 for the Jobs for Arkansas Graduates high school programs across the state. The Arkansas grants are part of an overall Entergy initiative to provide $5 million across its four-state utility service area.
Entergy Arkansas, a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., provides electricity to nearly 715,000 customers in 63 counties.