16 Connect 4 students working as paid apprentices

Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Connect 4 board president Rodney Ellis speaks to board members during an advisory meeting on Jan. 7, 2021, in Berryville. During the meeting, which was a combined in-person and virtual meeting, the board was updated on the status of the three-year-old program.
Robert Cox / Carroll County News

The Connect 4 board of directors heard some good news during its quarterly meeting on Thursday, Jan. 7. 

The technical education program, a cooperative effort between the various school districts in Carroll County and several local businesses and manufacturers, is doing well in its third year, with 55 students enrolled —28 from Green Forest, 21 from Berryville and six from Eureka Springs — with 16 participating in paid apprenticeship programs where they are earning between $11 and $18 an hour. 

“I wanted you to see what we’ve been able to do so far,” said board president Rodney Ellis, speaking to board members during a joint in-person and online meeting. “Kind of keeping track of where our students are at and what we’ve got as far as placements and amount of pay that we’re starting to keep in our community.” 

According to Ellis, a maintenance trainer for Tyson Foods, his company employs 14 of those apprentices, with two already working full time. 

“You can see, which to me is pretty impressive, the amount of money that these students are making and that’s staying here in Carroll County,” Ellis said. “We want to keep adding to that.” 

The three-year-old Connect 4 program — or C4 — offers junior and senior students from the Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest school districts the opportunity to pursue a technical education during the school day. The program is housed in the Carroll County Career Center, formerly the Berryville Readiness Center, and offers instruction in a number of different disciplines with an eye toward industrial maintenance, machining, welding, robotics and electrical work, providing students with a cross-curricular background in different trades. 

“Within three years, we’ve placed somewhere in the neighborhood of probably 35 kids,” Ellis said. “We’re trying to track that by dollar amount, so it’ll also show, on the economic development side, the skill sets that you have here when industry comes into play and it also shows you guys what kind of an impact this is having.” 

In other business, the board approved the purchase of 4,000 online tests for approximately $10,800 from the National Center for Construction Education and Research, a not-for-profit education foundation for professional craft certification.

That number of tests is expected to last the program two to three years, based on the number of students.

The board also approved approximately $6,200 for the purchase of meggers, electronic test equipment and measuring instruments for electrical power applications and a number of programmable logic controllers, equipment that will be used in various classes, along with some additional training for instructors James Knight and Dustin Wilson.

The board’s next meeting is expected to take place in April, but no firm date has been set.

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