Arkansas State University-Newport announced Friday that the two-year college will launch a career training center for high school students to be located on its Newport campus. The career center, which will be known as the ASUN IGNITE (Investing in Gen Next Industrial and Technical Education) Academy is scheduled to open with the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester.
The ASUN IGNITE Academy will provide a total of 70 high school students from four area school districts an opportunity to earn workforce-ready credentials upon graduation. The pilot program will allow students from Newport Special School District, Jackson County School District, Cedar Ridge School District and Bradford School District to receive training in Computer Network Technology, Welding, Diesel Technology or Phlebotomy/Certified Nursing Assistant. These fields of study were determined through ASUN’s collaboration with the four school districts, program advisory committees and through discussions with regional leaders in business and industry.
Upon graduation from high school, students completing the program will have earned transferrable credits and certificates of proficiency or technical certificates in the four fields of study. The four school districts associated with the ASUN IGNITE Academy are not currently served by a secondary career and technical center, and will transport their students daily to ASUN’s Newport campus to study in both classroom and laboratory settings in their chosen field. Students desiring to enter one of the four fields of study will go through an application and interview process prior to acceptance. The program will be provided at no cost to the student.
“I am really excited for our students,” said Chester Shannon, Jackson County School District Superintendent. “It is a wonderful opportunity for students to improve their future and it will only get better every year. We have a responsibility to our students to prepare them for life and to make them employable. So much emphasis is placed on AP courses and preparing for a traditional four-year college, but that is the path that only a small percentage take. A four-year degree is great if that is what you want to do, but if you want a career in one of the fields that will be offered, that is something that needs to be available, and I am excited that it will be. These students will now have the opportunity to develop skills and earn certifications that will make them immediately employable.”
“I can’t say enough how excited I am to know that I will have the opportunity to hand a diploma to a young man or young woman that gives them an immediate chance to have a better quality of life and that will enable them to support a family,” added Shannon. “This is a wonderful opportunity and we will do whatever we can to make it the very best.”
“I am extremely proud to be able to partner with ASU-Newport,” said Cedar Ridge Superintendent Andy Ashley. “They have gone above and beyond to accommodate the needs of our students. The opportunity for the students’ of Cedar Ridge to attend a career center is going to change the trajectory of our students’ lives. A secondary career center is way overdue for this area, and I am so proud of Dr. Massey, Dr. Ayers, and the others at ASU-Newport for their willingness to work to make this happen. I also appreciate the Dr. Charisse Childers, director of the Arkansas Department of Career Education, for granting this pilot program.”
Between the four school districts that will be served by the Academy, approximately 50 percent of graduating seniors do not pursue post-secondary education and are underemployed. Students completing the program will now be workforce-ready, allowing them to seek employment that would have previously been unavailable, or prepared to continue their education at the college level.
“This is quite an opportunity for our students because of the flexibility it gives them,” said Dr. Larry Bennett, Superintendent of the Newport Special School District. “The fact that they will have access to courses that we don’t offer, and the opportunity to earn these certifications gives them more options and follows up on some of the career pathways that we are developing. The relationship and partnership that we have with ASU-Newport expands the opportunities that these students have.”
Students entering the Computer Networking and Technology field will earn a Certificate of Proficiency from ASUN, which will also apply toward a CNT Technical Certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree should the student decide to continue their education.
Welding graduates will have earned a Certificate of Proficiency from ASUN, a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Core Card, NCCER Welding Card and at least one, but with the option of six American Welding Society Certifications. The Certificate of Proficiency will also apply toward a Technical Certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree.
In addition to a Certificate of Proficiency from ASUN, students graduating from the Diesel Technology program will earn Get Ahead certificates in Freightliner, Western Star and Detroit engines from Daimler Trucks North America Service Training Academy. The Certificate of Proficiency will also apply toward a Technical Certificate in Diesel Technology and an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Students entering the CNA/Phlebotomy fields will earn Certificates of Proficiency in Certified Nursing Assistant and in Phlebotomy from ASUN. These students will also complete a portion of the required courses needed to apply for the Licensed Practical Nursing program, and to transition into the Associate of Applied Science in Registered Nursing Program.
“Students entering these programs at ASU-Newport will have the opportunity to earn a ‘value-added’ high school diploma,” said Dr. Holly Ayers, ASUN Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. “This ‘value-added’ diploma will increase their earning power should they decide to transition into the workforce immediately following graduation. For students who decide to continue their education, college credits and professional academic certifications and credentials will already have been earned while dually enrolled in high school.”
“Our IGNITE Academy will be an effective use of resources that will enhance, but not duplicate, the instruction that these students receive in high school,” Ayers added. “The Academy will provide a great return of investment for local taxpayers in the form of better-paying jobs, and more completers at both the high school and collegiate level.”
“We are extremely proud of the programs that we offer at ASU-Newport, and of the staff and faculty members that have put in many long hours to make this program a reality,” said Dr. Sandra Massey, ASUN Chancellor. “Without the collaboration of the superintendents and administrators from the four districts, along with our advisory boards and local business and industry leaders, this would not have been possible, and we are certainly thankful for their efforts in making these programs available to the students from these school districts. The opportunities these students will receive in the programs will pay dividends for our entire area in the future.”