Arkansas Next PROS: Noteworthy News

By Arkansas Next on Friday, October 13, 2023

Newsworthy happenings in Arkansas’ booming industries.

Bike Trail Building School Coming to NWA

The NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) Foundation was awarded $8 million by the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to establish a trails trade school equipped with a state-of-the-art lab. Students will gain trail building and maintenance certification and can continue their education by earning a bike technician certification and an associate degree in construction technology or general technology. Apprenticeship courses will also be offered at a later date. The school is expected to open in the fall of 2024.

“We are excited to offer northwest Arkansas a unique trails trade program that will be the first of its kind. It uniquely builds upon the college’s bicycle technician, construction and general technology programs, offering graduates a range of professional pathways.” —Dr. Megan Bolinder, NWACC Dean of Workforce & Economic Development
NWACC Offers a Bike Assembly & Repair Degree

This degree through NWACC’s Cycling & Technician Education Center allows students to earn an accredited bike technician certification or an Associate of Applied Science in General Technology, which can transfer to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

Learn more at


You’re Hired! River Valley High School Students Promised Jobs at Koontz Electric

In a progressive move to both serve the community and build a pipeline of future employees, Koontz Electric has promised to sponsor any River Valley High School student who enrolls in one of three specific University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM) Career Center programs—covering ALL program expenses. Students who want to take advantage of the Koontz Promise must choose one of these UACCM Career Center programs:

  • Construction Technology
  • Industrial Mechanics
  • Maintenance Technology & Welding Technology

And the best part? Koontz Electric promises to hire ALL Koontz Promise graduates upon completing the UACCM Career Center program.

Plus, A Pre-apprentice Program for High School Seniors

Koontz Electric’s new pre-apprenticeship program, sponsored by the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation, debuted in January 2023 and celebrated its first graduating class in June. 

Seniors get an overview of the construction industry, its varied career paths and apprenticeship opportunities during the weekly four-hour classes (Monday nights at a training center in Morrilton). Graduates of the program leave fully certified in first aid and CPR and earn OSHA 10 certification. And according to the company’s Facebook page, the June graduates received a tool bag and tools worth $250. Koontz Electric also offers internships and apprenticeships.

Learn more: or (501) 354-2526


A-State Offers Amazon Employees Free Classes

Arkansas State University (A-State) has joined Amazon Career Choice, a program that offers Amazon workers free classes at hundreds of colleges and universities worldwide. Participants will have access to over 100 online degree programs. In addition, Amazon Career Choice covers book fees and helps workers obtain certifications and high school diplomas/GEDs. The program also helps workers hone foundational skills like English literacy. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College are also program members. According to Amazon, over $1 billion is being invested in this program to upskill more than 300,000 U.S. employees by 2025.

Goodwill Offers High School Diplomas & Workforce Training

The Academy at Goodwill has opened another education center in Springdale. The new Goodwill Training and Education Center is home to the Excel Center, an education program for adults to earn high school diplomas, and the Academy at Goodwill, which provides students with job skills and employment opportunities. 

The Excel Center will work with students’ individual needs for free to earn their diplomas, with flexible class schedules. The program includes life coaching, career advice, child care and transportation services. 

The Academy offers business administration, health care, information technology and skilled trades courses. The Excel Center awarded 24 diplomas to its Spring 2023 graduating class.


Jason Burt

Lyon College Dental & Veterinary Schools Will Be The First of Its Kind in Arkansas

Lyon College’s dental and veterinary schools, under the Lyon College Institute for Health Sciences, are expected to start recruiting students as soon as summer 2024, with the first students arriving on campus a year later for the fall 2025 semester.

These will be the first-ever dental and veterinary schools in Arkansas. The new schools will directly employ 130 people and create nearly 200 supported jobs for Arkansans. The schools will have a “distributed model” of education for students, limiting classroom time and emphasizing primary workforce experience.


SMS Group
A thin slab caster at Big River Steel in Osceola, Arkansas

Steel Manufacturing Jobs Boom in Northeast Arkansas

New rebar manufacturing company Hybar started construction on a $700 million mill in northeast Arkansas in 2023. The project will produce 630,000 tons of rebar annually and is expected to create at least 140 jobs that wil pay an average salary of $125,000, along with 60 jobs paying $75,000 annually, according to the Arkansas Department of Commerce. The mill is being built on 1,300-acres in Osceola and construction is projected to last 22 months. There are also plans in the works for a Mississippi River port facility, a direct railroad connection and a solar installation.

Two miles away, U.S. Steel’s Big River Steel facility is adding a $450 million electrical steel line. Meanwhile, the company’s new $3 billion Big River 2 mill (said to be the most advanced in North 

America) is also under construction. It’s expected to create 900 jobs — 700 full-time and 200 contract workers. 

Nucor-Hickman and Nucor-Yamato also have steel plants in nearby Blytheville—foundational facilities in northeast Arkansas’ steel boom.

Get Trained: Arkansas Northeastern College Gets $1.2M Grant for Steelmaking Skills Camp

The Arkansas Office of Skills Development (OSD) recently awarded Arkansas Northeastern College (ANC) in Blytheville a $1.2 million grant to create the Arkansas Steelmaking Bootcamp. Designed to meet the high demand for skilled workers in northeast Arkansas’ growing steelmaking industry, the boot camp will provide entry-level knowledge to those interested in the field. 

Graduates of the two-week, 80-hour boot camp receive an OSHA-10 General Industry Certification, first aid/CPR certification and a certificate of program completion.

Learn more by visiting or by emailing

National Park College

Arkansas Colleges Join Forces for New Degree Program

The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) has partnered with National Park College (NPC) to offer a new bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Current students with at least 55 credit hours and and a grade point average higher than 2.5 will be eligible for a $3,000 scholarship to help pay for the degree.

Students who graduate from the four-year program will receive an associate degree from NPC and a bachelor’s degree from UAM, with all coursework being completed on campus.


Rachel Pitre

ACEF Adds New Simulators, Heavy Equipment Operator Certificate Program

Funded by a grant from the Arkansas Office of Skills Development, the new Arkansas Construction Education Foundation program utilizes new Caterpillar dozer and excavator simulators (pictured) built with authentic Cat® controls. The curriculum teaches real-world machine application, training in multiple languages and training in pre-operation machine inspection procedures. Students will earn either a Caterpillar Level One Dozer Operator Certification or a Caterpillar Level One Excavator Operator Certification upon completion.

Source: Arkansas Construction Education Foundation

EMPOWER Offers Academic Life Skills Training for Disabled Students

EMPOWER, which stands for “Educate, Motivate, Prepare, Opportunity, Workplace readiness, Employment, Responsibility,” offers University of Arkansas students with cognitive disabilities a four-year, non-degree college experience program. The program incorporates functional academics, independent living, employment, social skills and health skills in a public university setting to produce self-sufficient young adults. The program teaches work experience, community integration and independence. Students who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion.


Walmart Employees Can Earn Free Degrees at University of Arkansas

Walmart’s Live Better U program covers tuition and cost of books at 26 universities nationwide, including the University of Arkansas. All Walmart and Sam’s Club store and fulfillment center employees can choose between the following bachelor’s degree paths: supply chain management, marketing, and general business. Non-degree programs in data science and purchasing are also offered. More than 104,000 Walmart employees have participated in the program within the past five years.



UAPB Planning New Cybersecurity & Engineering Degree Programs

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) plans to offer two new degrees in
engineering and cybersecurity. The
bachelor’s in engineering will have two tracks – construction project management and industrial manufacturing. The curriculum for the cybersecurity program includes core courses in science, computer science, criminal justice and mathematics. It will be the first program of its kind offered to
undergraduate students in Arkansas at a historically Black college or university.