Arkansas State-Funded ‘Boot Camp’ Aims to Train 500 Steel Workers

August 7, 2023

Arkansas Northeastern College has received a $1.2 million grant from the Arkansas Office of Skills Development to help create a program to train 500 steel workers in the program’s first year, the state announced Monday.

The program, called the Arkansas Steelmaking Bootcamp, is designed to meet demand for skilled workers in northeast Arkansas’ growing steel industry. The two-week, 80-hour program will provide entry-level knowledge for those looking to land a job with Big River Steel, Nucor Steel, Lexicon or other steel companies that are currently expanding operations or building new plants.

“The steel industry in northeast Arkansas is rapidly growing, and ensuring that there is a strong pipeline of talented workers is vital for the industry’s continued growth,” state Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald said in a news release. “The Arkansas Steelmaking Bootcamp is a prime demonstration of how government, industry, and educational partners in our state can work together to solve workforce development challenges that will set Arkansas up for success in the years to come.”

Graduates of the program will receive a general industry certification from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with a first aid/CPR certification.

Twenty-five people can participate in each program cycle, according to the release. In the first-year, Arkansas Northeastern College will offer 20 cohorts and partner with other colleges including Black River Technical College, East Arkansas Community College, Arkansas State University-Newport, and Arkansas State University Mid-South to offer another 22 cohorts.

“We have wonderful relationships with our sister institutions, and their support in joining in this effort will allow us all to apply our skills and abilities to offer the steelmaking bootcamp throughout all of northeast Arkansas,” Christopher Heigle, president of Arkansas Northeastern College, said in the release. “This initiative will provide our steel industry with a far-greater pool of prepared job applicants, illustrating a truly regional approach to workforce and economic development.’

The state grant will support instructor and support staff salaries, training fees and instructional materials, and marketing expenses.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” Heigle said, “but mostly for the communities we serve. I am proud to be a part of something so big that will benefit so many. Our industrial partners are very important to the viability of our communities, and we will always work to provide them the training they need.”

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