To boost tech talent, Arkansas launches data analytics workforce initiative

The governor's office says it hopes to piggyback on the state's already above-average growth in the sector.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has proposed a new organization to foster tech jobs and provide digital education training for residents.

Called the Arkansas Partnership for Data Analytics and Computing, the groups was announced on Thursday as a way to coordinate training for residents in data science, coding, machine learning, predictive modeling and computer skills. A report outlining the endeavor says the organization’s staff and activities will be funded with up to $25.5 million from public- and private-sector stakeholders that have yet to be named.

“My expectation is to set a guide for the state to respond to the needs of our business community, and in doing so, create career opportunities for our best and brightest young workers to remain in Arkansas and raise our overall state capabilities across industry, higher education and government to advance and apply the tools of data analytics and computing,” Hutchinson says in the report.

Hutchinson’s administration cites predictions from Wikibon Research — showing that the market for big data analytics and computing applications will grow from $18.3 billion in 2014 to $92.2 billion by 2026 — to justify its investment. 


Another significant driver is the state’s unexpected IT job growth. Within the past six years, the governor’s report notes that Arkansas added about 12,600 digital jobs, 32 percent growth rate that outpaces the national average of 23 percent. Despite this, the state has fallen short when it comes to moving college graduates with computing degrees into the IT workforce — less than 10 percent do so, according to the report.

Along with Hutchinson, Charles Morgan, CEO of First Orion Corporation and Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, are leading the initiative as co-chairs of a governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission. Preston said in the report, which he and Morgan prepared for the governor, that it was essential for Arkansas businesses and resident not to be left behind in the digital jobs market.

Once it begins operating, the analytics and computing partnership will dedicate itself to networking and executive education, data analytics skills training through universities and businesses, workforce retraining and retention activities and the creation of a data analytics infrastructure investment fund.

The program, which doesn’t yet have a launch date, will begin with an initial year focused on executive networking and education activities, followed by a second year focused on services, while three through five will look to expand the reach of those services.

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