Friday, September 25, 2015

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas has numerous apprenticeship programs, and the first one that focuses on information technology has been set up by the state Department of Workforce Services.
            The department launched the program with the Arkansas Apprenticeship Coalition, which has 75 locations around the state and works with more than 2,000 companies that train people as apprentices.
            The department is using grant money from the federal Department of Labor to place apprentices specifically in jobs that require information technology skills, such as computer coding. The main reason is that among private sector companies there is a strong demand for workers with technology skills.
            The director of the Workforce Services Department said that private employers would have input in designing and financing the apprenticeship program, to make sure it responds to their needs. Employers will be the main source of training apprentices.
            Generally, apprentices “earn while they learn.” They usually start by getting paid 50 percent of the going wage for the trade in which they are being trained, and as they learn new skills their pay increases. 
Apprenticeship programs are ways for young people to learn how to be electricians, carpenters, plumbers and builders. Often, apprentices take classes in addition to actual on-the-job training.
The information technology apprenticeship program will give preference to applicants who are dislocated workers, which means they have been laid off from their previous jobs.
The governor and the General Assembly have made a commitment to expanding classes that teach technology and computer coding. Earlier this year the legislature approved Act 187, which requires all public high schools and charter schools to offer classes in computer science.
The Workforce Services Department recently received a $4 million grant from the federal Labor Department to fund the Arkansas Apprenticeship Pathway Initiative, which will make apprenticeships available to 600 people. Participants will learn the skills they need for jobs that are in demand and that pay well.
According to surveys, employers benefit from apprenticeship programs because workers who have been through them tend to be loyal and tend to become supervisors.
Military Installations
The governor has formed a 10-member panel, called the Governor's Military Affairs Committee, to lead an effort to promote Arkansas as a good place for military bases. He allocated $400,000 from his discretionary account in the General Improvement Fund to pay for expenses of the steering committee and for any studies that may be needed.
He said that the presence of military bases in Arkansas are vital to national security and contribute more than $1 billion a year to the state’s economy. The national defense budget is under pressure and if it is reduced, it will be critical for Arkansas to demonstrate to federal decision-makers that it can be a good economic partner with military missions and with companies that contract with the Defense Department.
For example, recently a manufacturer in Camden won a $227 million contract with the Army for a multiple launch rocket system.

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