Mississippi County is one of the largest steel-producing counties in the United States, and local leaders are taking the initiative to ensure the growing steel industry in Arkansas has the workforce it needs for today and tomorrow.
On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson made two announcements in Blytheville.
The first is a major step toward increased workforce education in Arkansas: the establishment of the Arkansas Steelmaking Academy. The academy is founded through a partnership between Arkansas Northeastern College and SMS group, a company that makes equipment for the metals industry.
Area high school students will be introduced to the wide range of steel manufacturing jobs available. The Arkansas Steelmaking Academy will offer career training, and graduates will provide the workforce needed at steel companies in Arkansas, including Nucor Steel and Tenaris in Blytheville and Big River Steel in Osceola.
The primary goal of the Academy is to bring training that has historically only been available in Germany to the United States, specifically to Mississippi County, Arkansas, where the training will have great value and impact. Steel mills have processes and equipment that are incredibly precise and that are required to meet the standards of product quality, production goals and safety. The Academy will make it much easier and more economical for local companies to train more of their employees in a shorter time, with less expense, and with less disruption to their jobs and the processes of steel making. The Academy will strengthen the entire region and secure jobs and the economy for Arkansas’ steel mills.
Second, Governor Hutchinson presented an award to Mississippi County in honor of becoming the first county in Arkansas to achieve certification in Mississippi county act work readiness The ACT Work Readiness program encourages workforce training in Arkansas, and around the country, to get people ready to work in the industry of their choice while helping employers meet their workforce needs. Local educators, through the initiative, identify the skills gaps and build career pathways that meet the needs of businesses and industry in the area.
Mississippi County, for example, is home to the three steel companies mentioned above. More than 3,000 people in the county are employed in the steel industry. Mississippi County was certified in May 2017 and is actively engaged in maintaining their status. An additional 18 counties in Arkansas are working toward their Work Readiness goals for certification.
Arkansas has become a leader in the steel industry, with its central location, proximity to the Mississippi River, and transportation infrastructure. Continuing to grow both the number of jobs in the industry and the number of skilled workers is a boon to economic development. Mississippi County is leading the way in strategically aligning workers and opportunities.