Arkansas Next PROS: Bulletin Board

By Julia Shands and Beth Dedman on Monday, October 25, 2021

Newsworthy happenings in Arkansas’ booming industries

Walmart offers FREE tuition to employees

Walmart is now covering 100% of its U.S. employees’ college tuition and books. The company will invest nearly $1 billion over the next five years in career training and development programs for workers who want to pursue majors in high-demand fields, such as business administration, supply chain and cybersecurity. The company hopes this benefit will attract and retain talent.

Walmart’s Live Better U education program, which is free as of August 2021, was created in 2018 to help employees advance within the company. More than 52,000 employees have participated and 8,000 have graduated since 2018. Workers can choose from 10 academic partners. (

Truck Driver Training Program Offered at UA-Cossatot

The University of Arkansas-Cossatot now offers a Truck Driving Training Program each spring at its Nashville campus. The 160-hour course offers students extensive training that will have them behind the wheel in just four weeks. The program costs $3,695. Financial aid is available for some students who apply.

70 new jobs coming to Crossett

Cynergy Cargo, an enclosed cargo trailer manufacturer based out of Georgia, opened a new manufacturing plant in Crossett. The company plans to hire 70 full-time employees for carpenter, electrician and welder positions.

“In the spirit of progress, these leaders have expressed immense interest to create more employment opportunities for citizens.” - Vigler Mazariegos, owner of Cynergy Cargo

This expansion will allow Cynergy to be closer to customers and increase production with a third line. (

NWACC's Bicycle Industry Certification Program

NorthWest Arkansas Community College launched a new Bicycle Industry Employers Association accredited certification program. Students will train in bicycle assembly, repair and mechanics, service department operations, and more. Students are then able to continue their education up to earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in General Technology.

ATU-Ozark's Six-Week Machining Program

Arkansas Tech University–Ozark hosted a machining program sponsored by the Gene Haas Foundation for employees in various industries across the state. The six-week machining “boot camp” taught participants how to read industry blueprints, use gauging equipment and operate a Haas computer mill and lathe.

They were also taught shop safety and trained on control panels. The program was a hit with students from major businesses and organizations across Arkansas, including Tyson Foods Inc., Taber Extrusions, ConAgra Foods, ABB Motors & Mechanical Inc. and the Don Tyson School of Innovation.

Score $24,000 to Pursue a Forestry Degree

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture Forestry Division and the University of Arkansas at Monticello began a new scholarship opportunity giving one incoming freshman pursuing a forestry degree a scholarship of $4,000 per semester for four years.

UAM and ADA hope that the new Foresters for the Future Scholarship encourages students to pursue a career in forestry as the state has seen a decline in students seeking this degree.

“Foresters play a pivotal role in the state’s economy, and UAM is proud to have trained so many alumni who excel in the profession nationwide,” said UAM chancellor Dr. Peggy Doss.

Learn to Repair Yamaha Powerboats, Motorcycles & ATVs

Arkansas State University–Beebe’s Searcy campus has launched a new technical training program for outboard motor maintenance and repair with Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. The program focuses repairing powerboats, motorcycles, ATVs and outdoor power equipment. Yamaha will provide all instructional material, equipment training sets, outboard engines and testing equipment.

Upon completion of the two-year program, students earn a certificate of proficiency, a technical certificate and an associate degree in general technology. High school and college students are both eligible to enter into this program. (

New CTE Center for High Schoolers

The newly built center for Career & Technical Education in Saline County opened in August 2021. The CTE center offers students from six different school districts the opportunity to take classes in 10 different tracks, with seven of those providing students the certification needed to begin their careers upon graduation.

The 140,000-square-foot campus includes lab spaces for the various tracks, multipurpose classrooms and a common area featuring an auditorium accommodating 400 students.

“Our residents will benefit from this facility in many ways,” stated Brian Black of Black Corley Owens + Hughes Architects. “High school students will now have numerous options to train for high-paying careers while graduating with zero debt.” (

tyson adding poultry jobs in pine bluff

Tyson Foods Inc. is investing $48 million toward the growth of its poultry business in Pine Bluff—creating about 70 new jobs. This project will expand the plant’s fully-cooked processing lines, such as chicken tenders, and is scheduled to be completed towards the end of 2021.

The current Tyson facility in Pine Bluff already employs more than 1,100 people and paid approximately $47 million in wages during its 2020 economic year. The company also recently increased entry-level hourly wages at the facility to $15 an hour.

“Poultry production is responsible for about 25% of the agriculture jobs in Arkansas, making the state one of the top five broiler producers in the country,” said Mike Preston, Secretary of Commerce and Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “This expansion is a direct reflection of Tyson Foods Inc.’s commitment to the Pine Bluff community and the confidence they have in our workforce.”

Ready for Life’s New Training & Job Site

Ready for Life started as a program within the Governor’s Office to create an online platform where workers across the state can earn certifications and credentials, and businesses and industries can get employees with the skills they need.

The site links content from 1,000 jobs in Arkansas through the Department of Labor and is free for any employees, employers or institutions that want to participate. According to Rick Neal, the director of Workforce, Education & Data Transformation, participation from everybody is what it will take for this initiative to truly be amazing.

The ultimate goal is to create a one-stop shop for all Arkansans to find all careers and job postings and the education needed for them. It’s good for any student from eighth grade to age 60. Anyone who is looking for “a job, a better job or a career.”

“The one thing that excites me personally, from leading this initiative, is that no one in the country has this opportunity like Arkansas does right now,” Neal said. “No one is linking education to the workforce by using technology or being able to support all Arkansans seeking a job, a better job and a career. That’s what excites me.

Neal encourages employers, agencies and employees to participate and make this a truly robust platform.

Fort Smith Lands New F-35 Training Center

The U.S. Air Force selected the Fort Smith Ebbing Air National Guard Base as the location to establish an F-35 Lighting II training center and to host the 425th Fighter Squadron, a Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon training unit currently based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

This new training center will carry an impressive number of fighter aircraft and will be beneficial to the stealth capabilities of the U.S. (Arkansas Economic Development Commission)

El Dorado Plant Poised to Re-Establish Lithium Production in U.S.

Standard Lithium Ltd. has attached a second modular test plant to German company Lanxess’ lithium extraction project in El Dorado.

Lithium is extracted from the brine produced by bromine and is primarily used for cell phone batteries and fire retardants.

Standard Lithium CEO Robert Mintak said the company’s success in extracting lithium chloride with its proprietary process in El Dorado could re-establish lithium production in the United States. This means future job openings for a variety of skilled professionals.

Arkansas already leads the nation in bromine production, however, and it's the state’s leading mineral commodity based on value produced. Over the past 20 years, Arkansas has accounted for 40% of the world's production of bromine, according to the Arkansas Geological Survey. And another company that employs hundreds of Arkansans at its bromine plants is Albemarle, a global producer of lithium and bromine. Its Magnolia plants are two of the world's largest.