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CAPS becomes workforce center in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas educators, business leaders and lawmakers are pushing legislation to support the development of regional workforce centers.

The bill would join school districts with post-secondary schools, cities and counties to create workforce development center authorities, Gravette School District Superintendent Richard Page told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“We have a large portion of our student population that does not go on to get a four-year degree,” said Republican Rep. Dan Douglas, the bill’s House sponsor. “We have so many jobs in our economy that are going unfilled that are high-skilled, high-paid jobs that we’re not training for.”

The school districts would work through the organizations to acquire land and borrow funding to build regional workforce training centers. The centers would offer job training during the day for high school students and adult programs at night.

For example, Little Rock School District is planning to offer classes in health professions, technology, teacher preparation and construction trades in the 2017-18 academic year. The district also plans to reinvigorate its law enforcement program. It will be joining the Center for Advanced Professional Studies’ network of school districts, including the Bentonville district.

Bentonville School District Superintendent Debbie Jones, who is a former deputy education commissioner, said the bill will focus on testing in career-education programs.

“The goal is to not let anyone graduate high school without a plan,” said Charles Cudney, director of the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative.

Douglas said the House Education Committee plans to look over the proposal on Tuesday.