The Malvern Rotary Club welcomed Arkansas State University Three Rivers Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Pat Simms, to speak at their July meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Malvern Country Club.
Simms shared facts and data related to the various training and degree programs offered at ASUTR, beginning with the numerous courses offered through the school’s Workforce Development Training programs.
“A significant part of what we do is provide workforce training to businesses and industries in our area,” Simms said.
Workforce Development partners with participating companies to provide enhanced training and education in several fields, including electrical, welding, millwright training and professional development. The program also offers CNA classes, medical coding and cybersecurity,
“West Fraser, I’m sure you’re all familiar with, you have a plant in Leola, a lumber mill. They’re one of the largest producers of lumber in North America,” Simms said. “We provide all the training for all their mills west of the Mississippi River.”
During the 2021-22 fiscal year, ASUTR provided employees from West Fraser a total of 1,844 training hours, which created a revenue of $246,894 for the school. Simms noted that these classes are going on every week, and that the visiting employees/students come to town, stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants and bring even more revenue into the city during their visit through these expenditures.
Other companies that take advantage of the Workforce Development program are Kohler, Siplast and Arkansas Professional Environmental Solutions, Inc. (APES.) APES utilizes the asbestos abatement course, Siplast sends employees through the electrical program and Kohler sends welders through the program and recently had employees complete the professional development training.
“It’s a really good thing, not just for us, but for West Fraser and for our community, in general,” Simms said.
The Workforce Development has served over 6,000 students and brought in $872,077 of revenue for the college since its inception in 2017. This past year alone, the program hosted 2,625 students on campus and brought in over $350,500 of revenue.
Simms next focused on the year one achievements at the Saline County Career & Technical Campus, located right off I-30 in Benton. SCCTC is a career training center that provides specialized instruction to either immediately prepare students for the workforce or supplement further education.
The voters of Saline County passed a 3/8 cents sales tax a few years ago to fund a high school career training center, which is now a 134,000 square-foot facility situated on 22 acres. ASUTR was asked to run the operation and provide the staff and training. The grand opening took place in August of last year.
SCCTC’s programs of study include automotive technology, construction, cybersecurity, health sciences, HVAC-R, industrial technology, manufacturing, medical professions/CNA, networking and welding.
The school operates with eight full-time faculty and three full-time staff, as well as having partnerships with Dow Industrial and the Benton Police Dept. for additional staffing needs.
SCCTC had 403 students enrolled in classes for the Spring ’22 session. In the last year, students earned 451 industry-recognized certifications and 108 Certificates of Proficiency. The Fall-to-Spring retention rate is 92 percent, higher than the state average of 89 percent.
Simms said the center is running smoothly and will see continued growth. Year two target goals include an increase in enrolled students and faculty, as well as a growth in the traditional courses to be offered and the development of a community education program.
Simms noted that SCCTC is under the ASUTR umbrella but operates under a separate budget. ASUTR offers similar high school training programs for students residing in Malvern, Poyen, Bismarck, Ouachita, Magnet Cove and other students within a 30-minute drive from campus. SCCTC serves students from Bauxite, Benton, Bryant, Glen Rose, Harmony Grove and Sheridan.
Simms then presented facts related to the ASUTR operations at the Malvern location. According to data related to 2015-2016 graduates and their earnings the following year, students who graduated from ASUTR with an associate’s degree made an average of $44,374 in their first year of post-education employment—more than graduates of the same time period who received a bachelor’s degree from a four-year state university, who only earned an average of $39,644.
Students at ASUTR spent an average yearly tuition of $4,070 and received an average of $6,196 in financial aid, which more than compensates and lends to a great return on a student’s overall investment.
One opportunity recently arose for potential students at ASUTR, thanks to a completely anonymous $200,000 donation to the school, which is being used to offer free Fall 2022 tuition for a limited number of new students who want to enroll in the following programs: healthcare/medical office administration, computer network management, criminal justice, cosmetology, mechatronics or teaching. Anyone interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should call 501-332-0282 for more information.
One final program Simms highlighted is the Arkansas Trucking Academy, which is offered through a consortium of four community colleges, including ASUTR. This six-week course prepares students to test for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) through a blend of virtual and simulated classes, face-to-face instruction and hands-on, over-the-road experience.
Arkansas State University offers local high school seniors and non-traditional students the opportunity to receive training that will elevate their careers, or prepare them for a much better one. For more information about the many programs and services offered through the college, visit https://www.asutr.edu/ or call 501-337-5000.