NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR - The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a $2.5 million grant to the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College (UA-PTC) to the launch the first phase of its STEM Park Project on the college’s main campus in North Little Rock. UA-PTC will provide $653,230 in matching funds to remodel its existing Science building, labs, and classrooms.
Mr. Kevin Preskenis, chief of staff for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce, made the announcement at a news conference at the college Oct. 23.
“This is an incredible gift and opportunity for our college and for the State. It’s a huge win for students who receive training for STEM careers and a win for businesses with access to a deeper pool of trained employees.” said UA-PTC Chancellor Margaret Ellibee. “UA-PTC’s existing laboratory spaces can no longer serve student demand for our STEM classes, and we are turning away 200-300 students per semester due to inadequate and outdated facilities.”
The goal of the UA-PTC STEM Park Project is to ensure that UA-PTC will continue to be an integral partner in providing the highly skilled employees needed to maintain and grow the STEM-related professions and industries in Arkansas, and to build the future workforce and increase economic development in the state. UA-PTC’s STEM programs, which include allied health-related careers, advanced manufacturing, business/IT, and cybersecurity tracks, are vital to creating a robust, competitive, and modern central Arkansas workforce that is prepared for the technological requirements of 21st century jobs.
According to a December 2019 report from the Arkansas Economic Development Institute using data from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, there is a current demand for nearly 3,300 skilled workers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the state, yet the existing workforce is less than 2,800 workers – a shortage of over 500 employees. This workforce gap is projected to grow to over 2,000 STEM employees by 2023 and will only continue to expand over the next decade.
UA-PTC’s STEM Park Project will help meet the challenge of filling this demand by adding 400-600 employees to Arkansas’s workforce annually over the next nine years. This increased number of highly trained employees joining Arkansas’s workforce will have a tremendous positive impact on the economic development of our region and state.
The proposed $10 million STEM Park Project will include a three-phased scope of work – Phase One, being funded by the EDA grant, will be a complete remodel of the current science building. Phase Two will add the construction of a new two-story addition adjoined to the current science building structure. In Phase Three, a skybridge will join the existing Science building with the current Business/IT building, allowing for quicker and easier access to classes for students. All labs and classrooms will be equipped with up-to-date equipment and technology, resulting in a robust, innovative, and all-encompassing learning environment for UA-PTC’s students.