Governor endorses, praises Career Center

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially opened the Carroll County Career Center, known as C4, Monday morning in Berryville. C4 offers industrial and technical training for juniors and seniors as part of their high school experience.

C4 is in the former National Guard armory, and Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Johnson said as soon as the armory was given to the City of Berryville, Mayor Tim McKinney said he wanted to use it for workforce development for students who want to learn a trade or craft. Superintendents from Green Forest, Berryville and Eureka Springs school districts, and representatives from Tyson Foods, created a cooperative plan for the center. Tyson donated $1.3 million to get the place set up.

The initial class of 19 students from the three high schools began last month.

McKinney acknowledged the three superintendents – Bryan Pruitt, Eureka Springs; Owen Powell, Berryville; and Matt Summers, Green Forest for their contribution in getting the project to this point, and without much further ado, introduced Gov. Hutchinson.

Hutchinson pointed out the cooperation and perseverance it took for three school districts to create C4, and noted the transformation of the building from an armory to a skills center for high school students. He said C4 was right for the community and would only contribute more as it develops.

The governor said more school districts in Arkansas are adding career-training options to the curriculum because not everyone needs to go to college to prepare for a good career. He said there is a good living to be made in industrial maintenance, so give kids an option.

Hutchinson said part of his job as governor is to bring more jobs to the state, and having a strong workforce in place makes it easier for a business to want to relocate here. Also having training centers like C4 shows communities are committed to workforce development.

He intends to promote computer coding in schools throughout the state so students can become skilled enough they can do the work for companies anywhere in the world while staying in Arkansas.

He congratulated the three school districts on the partnership they created and the city governments that supported the project.

Since Hutchinson had to leave for other appointments, there was a brief photo session so the media could photograph the governor with the superintendents, mayors and County Judge Sam Barr.

Rick Burrows, president of Multi-Craft Contractors, speaking from the industrial perspective, said C4 should truly make a difference in the entire region. He said it was meaningful to see a community make this kind of investment in its future.

Mike Rogers, instructor at the Siloam Springs Career Center and a consultant during the planning of C4, noted a career center could be the starting point for lifelong learning. He looks forward to adding robot integration courses.

Summers called C4 “a remarkable achievement,” and hoped it would help to keep the labor force in the county.

Pruitt stated schools must find ways to educate all kids, whatever they want to learn, and get them ready and confident, “and this program will get them confident.”

Powell said 60 percent of his graduates go into the workforce, not college, so schools should prepare all students for what comes next.