Weekly Columns

During the in-state work period I had the opportunity to travel across the state and meet with hardworking Arkansans, small business owners and local leaders. No matter where I was, the topics of concern were the same: border security, skyrocketing inflation, high cost of energy and labor shortages. These economic challenges gripping the nation are impacting families, businesses and communities and we’re all making adjustments.  

Small businesses are increasingly facing staffing shortages. According to a recent report by the National Federation of Independent Business, vacancies are most prevalent in the transportation, construction and manufacturing industries where many of the positions require specialized training and skills.

The good news is Arkansas has already created a strong foundation to produce a pipeline of skilled laborers. It’s happening all over the state. Manufacturers are partnering with local schools to promote the trade skills required among businesses in the area and customizing training to meet those needs.  

In El Dorado, I toured the Charles A. Hays Manufacturing Center at South Arkansas Community College and saw the instructional tools used to provide students with the training they need for successful employment in the region. Well-paying jobs are available. Employers are anxious to hire. Learning skills to seamlessly transition from the classroom to career is mutually beneficial.

This is the model for success to attract and train the next generation of skilled laborers. It’s just one example of the collaboration between the business and education communities in Arkansas. Similar partnerships exist all across the state. 

The Peak Innovation Center in Fort Smith connects high schools students with training and technology so those who join the workforce after graduation are qualified to fill these in-demand jobs. It also provides specialty training and classes for credit toward advanced degrees. In addition, the city recently celebrated the opening of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Center for Economic Development as another place where community members can hone their skills and explore new careers.

In Russellville, the Arkansas/Oklahoma Carpenters Training Center is helping close the existing gap in carpentry and machinery careers. The training that will be offered at this new location aims to promote hands-on experience with the tools and equipment common on modern jobsites for successful careers in construction.  

The statewide Be Pro, Be Proud initiative, a mobile center offering young Arkansans the ability to explore their interests and how they correspond with technical-skilled careers has been successful in opening doors to well-paying careers. 

I’m proud to support workforce development initiatives like these. Rather than focusing on the labor shortage at hand, the Biden administration has remained inflexible and continues to pursue policies like canceling student loan debt that will only serve to increase the burden of inflation and do nothing to prepare the next generation workforce our communities need right now.  

Thankfully, in Arkansas we have leaders who have already been creating workforce development opportunities for skilled labor. I will continue to push for solutions to help spur economic growth and development so Arkansas families have the tools and skills for success and job creators find the employees right here in their backyard to meet their demand and lay the groundwork for future growth.