C4 board prepares for spring semester
The Connect 4 program is wrapping up its first semester, and the advisory board is already looking ahead to the next.
C4 administrative assistant and board secretary Jennifer Winkle updated the board Wednesday on local industries getting involved with the program.
“In November, we took the kids to Silver Dollar City, and they got a tour of the maintenance and construction side of things,” Winkle said. “The guy was impressed because they don’t have anything up there to train their kids for this. He said what our kids are seeing and learning … people who apply for jobs there don’t even know that stuff.”
In January, she said the Berryville and Holiday Island Rotary Clubs will be visiting the Carroll County Career Center. Hutchens Construction Company will be coming in to speak to the students, she said, and the C4 students will also tour Cal-Maine Foods and receive hazardous materials training.
Board president Rodney Ellis said the students will also do some boiler training.
“We’re going to go to Ducommun Incorporated in February and do a tour,” Winkle said.
C4 director James Knight said Prospect Steel from Little Rock will also be visiting the Carroll County Career Center in the spring to speak to the students. Knight said he also plans to bring in some industry representatives to do mock interviews with the students and help them develop their soft skills.
“We already talked to them about resumes,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some resumes to hand to them and do some mock interviews. They’ll give notes to the kids on what they need to work on, such as jazzing up their resume or working on having a better demeanor. The last week of April, I’d like to redo the mock interviews to see if they made any progress and took the notes to heart.”
Knight said the mock interviews are important in order to get seniors in the program headed in the right direction before they graduate.
“That way if they do get an interview they can land a job,” he said.
“The goal is to get companies to know the kids and make some connections,” Ellis said. “We want to place some of them in jobs when they graduate or before. [Tyson Foods] is hoping to have some of them intern.”
He said the Holiday Island Rotary Club has also expressed interest in offering a technical education scholarship for any students interested in furthering their education.
“They’re really interested in working with us on that,” Ellis said. “That’s another carrot for our kids if they want to go to Northark or another school. If we start giving tech scholarships out on scholarship night, that sells the program more.”
He also updated the board on the training robot that the program will receive through an Office of Skills Development (OSD) grant.
“It should be here at the end of February or the first of March,” Ellis said. “We’re one of eight schools in the state of Arkansas that are going to get that through the grant. There may even be a true industrial robotics course in the state in maybe another year.”
He continued, “The goal is to use the robot at the high school during the day for the kids, and we’ve got operators that can train on it at night. They can do some automation training. That’s how the grant works because it’s a workforce grant. They want to see both sets of folks using it. That will be really good for us.”
Most companies are using robotics, he said, so there has been a big push in Arkansas to get in front of the trend.
“Companies like GM, Dodge and Ford have been doing this since the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Ellis said. “There are more companies that are wanting to come south, but we don’t have that technical expertise in those areas year. This will help Arkansas hopefully get on the map. I’m pretty happy to be getting one here at the high school.”
He said Tyson Foods is donating about $50,000 for the robot, and the OSD grant will reimburse about 75 percent of the cost. ABB Group is donating a RobotStudio software license, which is valued at $150,000 per robot, Ellis said.
“So we’ll get 100 free seats,” he said. “That’s a pretty important piece to it because if we were going to purchase them they would be $2,500 apiece, and you renew them every year. They’ll renew those 100 seats each year. It should be free as long as we continue to send them a letter saying we’re continuing the program.”
Winkle said the career center has installed the firewall the board approved last meeting and loaded Bitdefender anti-virus software on all of the computers.
Next semester, she said the C4 program will have eight new students.
“We’ve got one coming from Eureka Springs, two from Green Forest and five from Berryville,” she said. “That gives us a total of 27 students, up from 19.”
Knight said he has spoken to the students and told them they will all be starting behind a semester and will have to do extra work to catch up to the rest of the class.
“Everybody agreed to the extra work,” he said. “I told the new guys they’re going to do everything with us, and every other Wednesday we’re going to pull them in and myself or Jennifer will review really hard to get them caught up. I told them they’re going to have to do 15 to 20 trade terms, which is kind of like vocabulary with a little more to it.”
The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for noon Wednesday, Jan. 2.