Since 1994, the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation (ACEF), an NCCER Accredited Training Sponsor, has been preparing individuals for construction careers. ACEF serves over 700 apprentices across the state. One of ACEF’s training facilities is the Career Academy of Siloam Springs (CASS) in northwest Arkansas. The school is Arkansas’ first accelerated pre-apprenticeship program and the only high school industrial maintenance program in the state.
Mike Rogers, an industrial maintenance instructor at CASS understands the gravity of the skilled workforce shortages across the country. The deep industrial and construction needs of the region, coupled with an aging workforce, inspired Rogers to find a way to extend industry training to high school students in Arkansas. In 2015, he led the way to have Siloam Springs High School converted to a charter school and become CASS. The school was very much needed for northwest Arkansas, because the area is a major retail, transportation and poultry processing hub for the country. In fact, much of the school’s 10,000-square-foot training facility was funded by local companies.
“The Career Academy of Siloam Springs adds value to employees who add value to the products that are manufactured in northwest Arkansas, and NCCER is one of the main reasons this is possible,” said Rogers.
At CASS, juniors and seniors enroll in a half-day program to complete their industrial maintenance mechanic apprenticeship. Students clock in and out for class each day and receive training in electrical, plumbing, machining, CNC operation, HVAC, building construction, programmable logistics control, electronic systems, materials handling, rigging, crane operation and industrial maintenance. CASS students are also given the opportunity to tour local manufacturing companies to get a behind-the-scenes look at how products are made. CASS pre-apprentices can receive up to 100 industry-recognized credentials upon graduation, in NCCER Core, NCCER Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, OSHA-10, HAZMAT, Fluke instrumentation safety, confined space, Lockout/Tagout, work ethics, soft-skill training, powder actuated tools, Personal Fall Arrest System and forklift. The concept is to cross-train and familiarize apprentices with numerous opportunities that lead to successful and rewarding careers in northwest Arkansas. Graduates of the accelerated industrial maintenance program will have completed all four years of their apprenticeships. This year, the program graduated its first class, and seven students have already been placed in jobs.