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UA partners in state training project for Arkansans hit financially by COVID

The University of Arkansas said Monday (Feb. 15) it will partner with state government, Shorter College in Little Rock and a private company to identify Arkansans hit hardest by the economic impact of COVID-19 and to provide job training and opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded a $13.57 million grant to the Arkansas Workforce Development Board and the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services to fund the Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project, a state-wide coordinated workforce development effort. Project partners include state agencies, the UA Global Campus, Shorter College and iDatafy LLC, a financial services firm in Little Rock.

The workforce project will pay tuition and fees for identified Arkansans to enroll in existing and new programs at the UA and Shorter College. Funding is intended to benefit Arkansans who would find cost a barrier due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are excited to partner with the U of A Global Campus, Shorter College and iDatafy LLC to create, expand and increase access to short-term training opportunities in Arkansas,” said Eduardo Lemm, state project director for Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project.

The role of the UA Global Campus will be to help assess statewide skill gaps for in-demand occupations, develop online training programs and deliver training designed to help Arkansans return to or thrive in the pandemic-era workplace.

“The U of A is committed to serving the educational needs of Arkansans, and that includes those who need workforce development to thrive during this public health crisis,” said Cheryl Murphy, vice provost for distance education and head of the Global Campus.

The federal grant will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved in March 2020. The CARES Act was designed to provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers and families and small businesses, preserving jobs for American industries.

Project partners will recruit Arkansans who are unemployed, underemployed, underrepresented, incarcerated, paroled, on probation or in rural areas to enroll in new or existing short-term education and training programs. iDatafy will develop certified SmartResumes for training participants, making it easy for employers to search for talent and to confirm applicants’ training history.

Arkansas was one of only eight states in the nation to be awarded a 2020 Education Stabilization Fund: Reimagine Workforce Preparation grant.

Read this story on the Talk Business & Politics website here.

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