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A series of site visits are giving Northwest Arkansas education leaders and state workforce officials the opportunity for boots-on-the-ground learning from national programs of excellence in high-needs occupations.

Last month, the Northwest Arkansas Council brought more than 30 superintendents, principals and other workforce leaders to the Arlington ISD Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center, Frisco ISD Career and Technical Education Center and Dubiski Career High School, all in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, to learn from their models to help develop new programs and career pathways.

Site visits are set to continue over the next year with a special focus on health care, construction and other industries  seeking thousands of urgently-needed and well-paid new workers in the region.

“Through the work with the Northwest Arkansas Council, industry roundtables and input from employers, we understand the growing need to ensure high school graduates have real career experience,” said Starlinda Sanders, career and technical education coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative. “We want to bring home the very best practices and offer them to all the districts across Northwest Arkansas.”

Similar learning and inspiration trips a decade ago contributed to programs benefitting thousands of students today, including Bentonville’s IGNITE program, the Don Tyson School of Innovation and the Career Academy of Hair Design in Siloam Springs.

“We want to continue this growth and offer world-class programs of study to students across the region,” said Bryan Law, the Cooperative’s director.

Over the last several years, the Council partnered with school districts, post-secondary institutions and employers in building real awareness of NWA’s workforce gains and its gaps.

“School districts are the frontline in this work, and we have to ensure that they are armed with the most cutting-edge training opportunities,” said Joe Rollins, workforce development director for the Council. “Experience is absolutely the best teacher. Having a collective of districts, post-secondaries and workforce agencies all sharing this experience will ensure we are all working together to provide outstanding programming for the future workforce.”