Radio Column

Asa Arkansas's Governor

The Future of Arkansas Graduates


Column Transcript

Another school year has come to a close. Many high school and college graduates across Arkansas have now earned their degrees and are preparing to enter the workforce. It’s an exciting time.

Graduation day is something you remember forever. You hold your head high, receive your diploma, and as you return to your seat, you meet the eyes of friends and family who couldn’t be more proud of you.

Carla Webb, age 45, from Buckner, Arkansas, finally got that experience for herself after earning her degree from Southern Arkansas University – only two hours before her son, Darryl Webb III. The path toward earning her degree was anything but easy. And yet, on May 6, 2016, Carla was awarded her degree in Criminal Justice, followed shortly by her son, who earned a double major in Engineering Physics and Mathematics.

When asked about her experience, Carla said deciding to start college at age 45 was a challenge. But because of her determination and support from her family, Carla continued to push herself and finally walked across that stage.

Many Arkansans share a similar mindset. We know the values of hard work and persistence – and with many skilled and professional workers heading toward retirement, there will be an estimated 5.8 million job openings nationwide, with nearly 60,000 of those openings in Arkansas.

The jobs are here; all it takes are the right tools, a willingness to learn and an opportunity to get them.  

As governor, I get a lot of calls about economic development. When a business is considering relocating or expanding in Arkansas, the abilities of the state’s existing and upcoming workforce are always a key part of the discussion. It is critical to equip our students, young and old, with workforce training opportunities to give them a competitive edge. That way, Arkansans can graduate with skills that meet the needs of employers – and ultimately, can be successful in any career.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." In Arkansas, we are moving closer toward bringing a new generation of skilled workers and professionals into our state’s labor force. Already, our state has funded several new Secondary Career Centers in the past year, bringing the statewide total to more than 40 centers. We’ve also seen innovative career development programs in local school districts and more than 20 regional workforce grants issued by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education over the past year.

Additionally, Arkansas is working to close the education attainment gap by setting goals in the Department of Higher Education to increase post-high school degree and certificate attainment from 40 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025. It’s a bold mission – but when our students excel, so do our businesses, our communities, and, our economy.

The future of Arkansas graduates – like those from Webb family – is bright, and I encourage learners of all ages to go out and make your own success stories. You’re never too old to start learning, and you’re never too young to aim high and achieve great things.