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ABC of Arkansas is well on its way to achieving its mission of establishing the state’s premier workforce development training center in a Little Rock facility that houses the Arkansas Construction Trades Academy (ACTA) as well as ABC’s offices. The school got up and running last year in a 5,000-square-foot performance lab and is now finishing up the process of building out a 7,700-square-foot building with two classrooms seating 25 each and a conference room seating up to 60 people.  

“This new facility will help us get people ready to work in construction. Current apprenticeship programs lack modern technology, limit hands-on training opportunities and are unwilling to provide alternative class schedules. The ACTA plans to fill this industry void,” says Bill Roachell, president of the ABC Arkansas Chapter. “We’re also doing a lot more education and training for our members, most of which are small to medium sized companies that don’t have their own in-house training. We can offer it at a much better cost than hiring somebody on their own.” 

Project funding came from chapter reserves, a construction loan, a TCEF grant and in-kind/cash donations. Buy-in from the community has been tremendous, according to Roachell. The project’s construction manager, Nabholz Corporation, Conway, Ark., gave a cash donation, as did Koontz Electric and CMS Wireless.

Conway-based Fureigh Electric donated all of the electrical work and moved 20 of its electrical apprentices over from another program to populate the academy’s first class in the fall of 2017. 

“We wanted to keep it small to make sure we could get all the reporting right with DOL, NCCER and the state,” Roachell says. “We knew there would be a learning curve and ways we could do things better. That helped us get our processes in place.”

The school expanded to offer masonry and plumbing apprenticeship training this year, and HVAC will debut next year. 

Additionally, ABC member companies will have free use of the facility to hold meetings for employee recognition, strategic planning, insurance updates, etc., rather than paying to rent a room somewhere else.

This fall marks the start of some community-based training as well. The chapter is bringing in unemployed or underemployed people for an eight- to 10-week program covering OSHA, NCCER Core and Level 1 construction. Upon completion, participants will have the skills to go to work as field laborers for a local contractor. 

And in January, high school seniors will be able to join the chapter’s new pre-apprenticeship program, where they’ll get course credit and be ahead of the curve by completing their NCCER Core and OSHA training. Roachell is also in talks with elected officials about starting a re-entry training program for non-violent offenders transitioning back to the workforce from prison and halfway houses.

“Our goal is to become the leading source for education, safety and training for our ABC Arkansas members,” Roachell says. “This new facility gives us strength and credibility with the entire construction industry in Arkansas.”

Click here to read more about local training programs in other regions.

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