Steps to create an educated and qualified workforce in Clark County and the surrounding communities were addressed during the recent Clark County Community Economic Development and Leadership Conference.

Steps to create an educated and qualified workforce in Clark County and the surrounding communities were addressed during the recent Clark County Community Economic Development and Leadership Conference.
According to Shelley Loe, executive vice-president of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce, multiple local economic and educational entities have been working together to address the educational needs of Sun Bio.
"When the announcement came in April of last year, different industries had talked about the need for workforce," Loe said.
As the conversations proceeded, attention was given to not just the jobs that will be directly associated with Sun Bio, but also in the forestry and timber industries.
During her conversations with those in the timber industry, Loe said she learned more about the high demand for drivers and others needed in the timber operation.
In addition, Loe noted the hurdles insure young truck drivers.
"Age 21 is really where someone can get a CDL, but you really can't hire them in the timber industry. They have to be 23 to 25 years old. The insure is not affordable and my understanding is there are very limited insurance companies that will even insure them in the state of Arkansas," Loe said.
According to Loe, Sun Bio has provided a list of positions that will be open at the local plant site.
The positions include general labor, production technicians (entry level and advanced), production supervisor, quality assurance technician (entry level and advanced), maintenance positions, computer networking, finance and accounting, general management, logger and truck driving.
Because of his background in education, Dr. Brett Powell of Henderson was able to put the list of jobs in a format that actually breaks down the type of education, the skills needed and who the educational partner will be.Depending on the job, applicants will be required to have either a high school diploma, technical certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.
Based on regional workforce studies, Loe said the region does have the workforce to meet the needs of Sun Bio.
"But we are not educating and providing a pipeline into the timber industry," said Loe.
According to Loe, the College of the Ouachitas provides simulators, a truck and curriculum to train those who have their CDL.
In addition, the University of Arkansas at Monticello offers a design program specially for the timber industry.
"The public schools, and all of the educational entities, have risen to the occasion," Loe said.
Stephen Bell, president/CEO of the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance and Area Chamber of Commerce, noted Alliance chairman Eric Hughes worked with the local Reuse Committee to secure funding to purchase training equipment for area students.
“The committee oversees leftover funds from a 1983 program of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission,” said Bell.
The committee approved a $67,000 grant for Gurdon to purchase three logging simulators and another $67,000 grant for Arkadelphia to purchase a FAUNUC robot. The robots are in use at Danfoss and W.P. Malone, Inc.
The Cabe Foundation also contributed funds to the Gurdon School District to help purchase the simulators.