The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith has partnered with ABB to introduce the first Youth Apprenticeship Program for advanced manufacturing in the state of Arkansas. The collaborative program was launched at the Fort Smith Area Chamber of Commerce Signing Day on May 3 when nine students from six local high schools officially joined ABB as apprentices.
The May event saw 31 students from UAFS and regional high schools publicly commit to Fort Smith business, including ABB, ArcBest, Baptist-Fort Smith, Mercy-Fort Smith, SSI Design-Build Constructors and more.
Fort Smith has seen an increased need for skilled workers in advanced manufacturing, information technologies and healthcare reaching near critical need. The ABB Youth Apprenticeship Program is one element in this community-led effort to bringing together business, economic development, higher education and k-12 education to establish a workforce development model that creates a talent pipeline for existing and future businesses in the region.
“Developing our programs alongside the business community ensures we are delivering students with critical skills that are in high demand,” said Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology at UAFS. “These students will not only have the opportunity to apply what they learn in school in a real-world environment, but they will also receive a regular paycheck while completing their high school careers.”
The ABB Youth Apprenticeship Program targets rising high school juniors and seniors ages 16-18 who are enrolled in advanced manufacturing career and technical education programs at the university. Once they are accepted into the program, they will work full time for ABB over the summer and part time during the school year while attending high school and earning technical concurrent college credit.
“As ABB continues to invest in advanced manufacturing technology, equipment and processes, it’s critical to have the right employees with the right skills to support them,” said Johnny McKusker, vice president of operations for ABB’s NEMA motors business.
Students will spend two months at ABB over the summer, dedicating 40 hours a week to their studies and career development. They will continue their advanced manufacturing curriculum with UAFS instructors on a daily basis in an on-site classroom at ABB, and will begin to work with ABB staff to put their skills to use.
“As we move forward in the world of industry 4.0, it’s exciting to know we are building a pipeline of talent, inside and out, that understands the technology we will use to take better care of our customers,” McKusker said.