Secondary career center to provide more education opportunities

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville is now designated a secondary career center, which will allow it to extend training opportunities to more students.

The college was granted the title at the Career Education and Workforce Development board meeting Tuesday.

Chancellor Deborah Frazier said they started the process to take the barrier of cost away from students who want to pursue technical training while still in high school.

"The problem with career and technical education and training is that it's very costly and requires expertise in the teaching area and it's difficult for each and every high school to have the proper faculty, have the proper equipment, and have the proper space," Vice Chancellor for Academics Brian Shonk said. "The state recognized that and they came up with secondary area career centers, which is a way to combine efforts, use state resources in the best way possible, and have once center that serves students within a 25-mile radius."

It includes seven schools in Independence County.

The three courses that will be offered through the center during the first year are welding, certified nursing assistant, and emergency medical technician.

Some of those schools have already been taking these classes through UACCB, but with the school or students taking on most of the cost.

"The school districts are already busing their students to campus during the academic day and then some of the outlying schools have allowed their students, their older students, to drive back and forth to the college," Frazier said. "So it takes concessions from all of them to have a bus driver to come to the campus, you have to pay that bus driver, to have transportation costs. Although it's a minimal, if you multiply it by 180 days, it creates a cost for the public schools."

Frazier said with the reimbursement through the career center, they can help offset those costs.

It also takes the pressure away from students to pay tuition for the courses.

"We have many high school students that are looking for their career," Shonk said. "They don't know what it is yet. They can explore the career options in high school and maybe get some training and some certification and set themselves on the path to a good career. In addition, that benefits our local employers from healthcare to education, to manufacturing, to agriculture. We have a lot of thriving industry in the Batesville and Independence County area and the demand for employees just keeps increasing as those businesses grow and current employees retire."

Frazier also said having that trained employee pool in the area will also drive more industry into Independence County.

Southside Superintendent Roger Rich said he is excited to see this designation open more doors for his students.

"We've had a great partnership with our community college and it's been great for our kids," Rich said. "What this does is remove another barrier and I think that's the key and what we're tasked to do is remove barriers. It enhances the opportunities for our kids and I think the possibilities are just endless for them to choose a career pathway."

Shonk said the college plans to add cybersecurity and industrial equipment maintenance technician to their offered programs next year.

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