Each week, we’d like to take time to do a #FeatureFriday on an organization that is doing big things for child poverty in our community. We at the United Way of NWA are fortunate to have many, many organizations that we’re proud to come alongside and make a difference on a daily basis, impacting children in our own backyard.
This week, we’re proud to be featuring Western Benton Country Career Center. We asked Becky Rangel, Public Relations of Gravette Schools, to share a little bit about their plans for their welding program that received First Step Funding under the Children Living In Poverty (CLIP) initiative from United Way NWA. Take a look at what Becky had to say– we know this program is going to do huge things in the lives of these students professional lives.
This year Gravette School District partnered with Northwest Technical Institute (NTI) to expand their Welding Program. The Welding I program is now being offered through the Western Benton County Career Center and is educating students from Bentonville, Gravette, and Decatur schools. Within several weeks of the first class, two female students joined the group and are excelling. Thanks to the First Step Funding grant provided by the United Way, these students have access to the proper equipment and supplies, adding to the success of this program. This grant is aimed at fighting poverty; with the programs offered at the Western Benton County Career Center, we are giving students the skills to break the cycle of poverty. In Arkansas, welders make an average of $17.17 per hour, which is more than twice the minimum wage!
The demand for vocational training is on the rise. Currently, about 40 percent of the Gravette school district’s graduates don’t go to college. The credit they earn in the Welding program not only counts toward graduation, but if they finish the course they will also earn their AWS & NCCER certification. This gives those students other options, jump starting their careers and making them employable immediately after graduation. State Senator Jim Hendren recently toured the program and reinforced the growing demand for skilled laborers. Local employers have already shown interest in these students when they graduate. Vocational programs are on the rise and we are privileged to be able to offer this option to several school districts.