Arkansas State University - Newport

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ASUN Lobby
October 2019

ASU-Newport awarded grant to support workplace readiness

Along with four other colleges, the Delta Regional Authority and U.S. Department of Labor awarded Arkansas State University-Newport more than $300,000 to invest in the Mississippi River Delta region. 

This summer, the Arkansas Delta Training & Education Consortium (ADTEC), led by the Arkansas Northeastern College (ANC), applied for a U. S. Department of Labor-Education & Training Administration (DOLETA) grant aimed at the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), entitled Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC). ADTEC consists of five community colleges serving 14 counties in eastern Arkansas, as well as three counties in Missouri and one county each in Tennessee and Mississippi. On September 30, DRA announced that ADTEC’s project, Arkansas Delta Workforce Opportunities for Rural Communities (ADWORC), was one of 18 projects, including 8 DRA projects, funded by the $29 million Federal initiative. The purpose of the $2,324,336 proposal, funded 100% by Federal dollars, is to increase the labor participation rate in the Arkansas Delta by preparing new entrants to the workforce, particularly persons from impoverished backgrounds and the formerly incarcerated, as well as dislocated workers for jobs in high-demand fields. Increasing the labor force participation rate in the ADWORC region will enlarge and augment the pipeline of skilled workers to build upon current economic growth through existing and future employers.

The colleges joining ANC in the ADWORC grant are East Arkansas Community College, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University-Newport, and Arkansas State University-Mid-South. ANC’s share of the grant funds is $704,064 over the next three years with all funds supporting the ADWORC initiative.

With ADWORC being specifically geared toward the hard-to-reach population, intensive case management resources will be implemented. The additional funding from the grant will allow each of the ADTEC colleges to hire additional personnel who will establish a career placement pipeline, recruit heavily from the targeted populations, and deliver training developed in conjunction with employers. Each of the ADTEC schools will utilize the additional funds to provide much-needed case management and career services to new entrants to the workforce. Additionally, they will deliver workplace readiness training, offer industry credentialing opportunities, and provide work-based learning experiences through on-the-job verification (OJV) coaching. OJV involves the case manager or other personnel functioning as a liaison between the client/new employee and the employer to ensure that skills acquired through training are being properly applied during either a paid internship or initial employment opportunity. Generally, workplace readiness and industry-specific training at each of the colleges run one semester or less, while the work-based learning experience will vary from 90 to 120 days across the five colleges. Several of the ADWORC colleges will use grant resources to offer cash incentives to participants for NCRC attainment ($50), ADWORC training completion (up to $200), and employment attainment ($250).

ASUN plans to use its funds to hire an Arkansas Delta Workforce Opportunities for Rural Communities Case Manager to focus on workplace readiness and industry-related instructions. The ADWORC Case Manager will play an integral role in helping under-resourced citizens succeed. 

"This case manager will be able to give individuals personalized service in helping them develop the necessary skills needed to get back in the workforce quickly," Chancellor of ASU-Newport Dr. Sandra Massey said. "It's our mission at ASU-Newport to provide accessible education to all in the hopes of transforming lives and strengthening our regional economy. We are thrilled our mission aligned with the DRA and U.S. Department of Labor to make this new opportunity possible." 

The project will also link community partners to provide participant referrals to ADWORC. Over two dozen employers wrote letters of commitment as part of the grant application.

Arkansas counties served by the ADWORC project include Mississippi, Craighead, Greene, Poinsett, Jackson, Crittenden, Cross, Woodruff, White, St. Francis, Lee, Philips, Monroe, and Arkansas. Arkansas counties are the primary service area; however, the location of ADTEC partner colleges creates the opportunity to serve eligible participants from counties in adjoining states. Missouri counties include Pemiscot, Dunklin, and New Madrid. Additionally, Shelby County in Tennessee and DeSoto County in Mississippi are included. All counties served by ADWORC are within the Delta Regional Authority territory.