TEXARKANA, Ark. -- The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana has added a building to its campus in hopes of providing students and the community with training that meets the needs of an evolving workforce.
Chancellor Dr. Christine Holt delivered remarks Thursday during the grand opening ceremony of the Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center.
"It is a phenomenal opportunity for us. It is a phenomenal opportunity for the region," Holt said to a packed audience of elected officials, donors, students and Texarkana industry and business leaders.
The chancellor said the center makes UAHT part of the solution in meeting workforce needs.
"We hear all the time from employers that they need highly skilled and trained employees, so we are going to do our part to make sure that any employee who comes through here that they're going to be highly skilled and prepared to go to work," she said.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was a scheduled speaker but was unable to attend because of traffic delays and the stormy weather that rolled into the region Thursday afternoon. However, she issued a statement published on the university's website.
"I'm so excited to join the (UAHT) team to celebrate the opening of their new workforce center. Workforce development is the future of Arkansas and is at the core of Arkansas LEARNS, my plan to take our state's education system to the top. I know this new center will help Arkansas students graduate with the skills they need to find a high-paying job, right after graduation, right in their community."
Other speakers included Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System; Chris Gosnell, CEO of Farmers Bank & Trust; and Brad Stringer, manufacturing director at Ledwell.
The university broke ground on the center in October 2021 to expand its career and technical programs. The 14,754-square-foot, $3.85 million building houses the Arkansas High School Collegiate Academy and the Secondary Career and Technical Education Center.
The new building is also a meeting space for the community and business and industry training.
Holt spoke highly of the benefits the center will bring to high schoolers, especially the Collegiate Academy, which allows students to graduate high school with an associate's degree.
"Part of our mission is helping our secondary school partners prepare our students for life after high school, (and) the secondary career center is one of the great programs we offer (to) help students get a head-start in college or provide them with a credential to go to work in a quality career field straight out of high school," Holt said in a news release.
The workforce center also provides training in welding along with community events, such as salsa dancing and cooking classes.
The center is named after Farmers Bank & Trust. The bank is contributing $100,000 in $10,000 annual donations for 10 years, which Holt earlier described as a "very significant gift."
"This is the first time we've done a naming rights opportunity, and that money supports not only the building but programs," she said.
Ledwell contributed $75,000 to the center's construction, while local entrepreneur Curt Green donated $25,000, said Casey Curtis, UAHT communications director.