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Career Clusters™ Institute Blog Series: Arkansas Works – Creating a Competitive Workforce through State and Community Collaboration

This blog series provides readers with insight on the valuable content that is being shared at the Career Clusters ™ Institute. Guest bloggers are among teachers, faculty, researchers and other experts that will present at the national gathering in Washington, DC in June.

Sonja Wright-McMurray is the Associate Director for the Arkansas Department of Career Education – Career and Technical Education Division (Arkansas Works). She is the founding Director and responsible for providing statewide oversight of the Arkansas Works Initiative. Wright-McMurray holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Education in Higher Education Administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She also holds a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from Drake University.
As Career and Technical Education (CTE) administrators and teachers try to ensure that a qualified workforce stands ready to fill 21st century jobs, one of our struggles is ensuring our students are college- and career-ready. That is the mission of Arkansas Works.

Arkansas Works is a collaborative effort among the departments of Career Education, Education, Higher Education, Workforce Services, and Economic Development; the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority; the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, and the State Chamber of Commerce.

Funded by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, this initiative is a three-component system that includes:

•The Arkansas College and Career Planning System, a web-based career planning system powered by Kuder™;
•The College and Career Coaches Program and;
•The ACT Academy Program

Over the past two years, Arkansas Works has addressed the issue of students being under-prepared to pursue postsecondary education and enter the workforce in the most impoverished areas of the state. The program strongly emphasizes the benefits of CTE courses, apprenticeship programs and work-based learning opportunities. Arkansas high schools served by the program have seen an increase in applications for financial aid, increase in the college-going rate, increase in ACT scores, increase in opportunities for employment and a decrease in the amount of students taking remediation courses at the postsecondary level.

Learn more about how you replicate this program and achieve similar results in your state for your students by attending Sonja’s session at the National Career Clusters™ Institute: Arkansas Works – Creating a Competitive Workforce through State and Community Collaboration on Wednesday, June 20.

Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager

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