At an open house event on October19, 2018, the University of Arkansas Cossatot Lockesburg Industrial Maintenance Institute (LIMI) was commended as a model for the rest of the state and a successful collaborative educational effort among higher education, K-12 institutions, local industries, and state agencies by key industry, government, and education leaders.
“This is a great day for industry, education, and economic development in Southwest Arkansas,” said UA Cossatot Chancellor Steve Cole in his opening remarks.
“UA Cossatot has been building our Industrial Maintenance program for several years and what you are seeing today is the evolution of that project.”
Cole shared that LIMI partnerships were birthed out of conversations with local K-12 Superintendents desiring dual credit industrial maintenance training for their students.
The LIMI project is funded and supported by UA Cossatot, the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, Tyson Foods, AEP SWEPCO, Domtar, Ash Grove Cement, Weyerhaeuser, Domtar, De Queen Mena Educational Cooperative, the Arkansas Department of Career and Technical Education, and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
“This massive collaboration between education, state agencies, and industry serves as an example of how we can close gaps in our skilled workforce and, at the same time, help impact economic development in our surrounding counties,” said Cole.
Representing local K-12 superintendents was Horatio School Superintendent Lee Smith saying that through the high school programming offered at LIMI, students have the opportunity to earn livable wages and learn transferable skills that will allow them to work in their hometown communities. They will be able to grow professionally and provide for their families - all without amassing a lot of debt.
UA Cossatot Secondary Career Center programming allows for high school students to benefit from college level training and instruction while in high school. The credentials that they earn can be stand alone or joined together for degrees. Multi-craft courses are offered in pairs for nine weeks so that in two-years time students will have covered thirty two industrial maintenance modules.
According to Deputy Director of Arkansas Office of Skills Development Cody Waits, the average wage for an industrial maintenance worker around the state is $65,000 to $75,000 a year.
Tyson Technical Education Liaison Rodney Ellis said, “Our heart is for the students who come out of this program to have a great opportunity to stay in this community. We are glad to see those opportunities for these students to stay here, make a great living, and be able to put back into their community.”
Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission Mike Preston shared his experience promoting Arkansas to international industry. Arkansas is thought as to not have the skilled workers necessary to support new industry. Training facilities like the LIMI are essential in conversations with new industry that will advance the wellbeing of Arkansans.
University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt spoke on the importance and the genesis of the project, applauding Dr. Cole and UA Cossatot for bringing the project to fruition.
In his keynote address, Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin shared that for legislatures at the national and state level, the conversation around workforce and workforce training has been front and center for years. The message to students unfortunately became that only a four-year degree would solve everyone’s economic issues.
The Lieutenant Governor stated, “We failed, as a country, to meet people where their passions and needs meet with opportunities at all levels of education. You can pursue excellence in all levels of the training and education spectrum, not just with a four-year degree.”
He went on to say that a skilled industrial maintenance worker is just as valuable as someone working with a PhD. Everyone engaged in the way they feel passionate about will advance Arkansas.
“No matter where you go in the country, workforce is one of the top issues, and has been for years. What I hear most often is the problems with workforce, so it’s a fabulous event where we can come together and celebrate a solution to these problems.”
The Lieutenant Governor expressed his desire to see the LIMI as a model replicated everywhere in the state, as well as his appreciation fore the private sector’s commitment. He encouraged decision makers to continue to look forward to the future, “What is the next big thing? Where do we go next? It’s not just about jobs, it’s about careers.”
Other speakers offering remarks included Tyson Complex Managers Ronnie Eddy and Mike Hanson and UA Cossatot Skilled Trades Division Chair Steve McJunkins.
The LIMI is located in the newly restored Lockesburg High School building, originally constructed in 1953. Currently, more than 60 high school and college students are enrolled. For more information, please visit cccua.edu/IndMaint.