The Promise to Support Technical & Trade Schools

Trade and skilled labor is critical to our state’s workforce—and especially for building infrastructure. In focusing on providing opportunity for every Arkansan, Chris JOnes believes that we also need to increase educational opportunities for trade workers. Despite this, the current landscape of technical schools in Arkansas reveals large gaps that deny upward mobility to those who form the backbone of the state’s economy. We need to fill those gaps and prioritize fair opportunities for blue-collar Arkansans.

Technical programs increase the opportunities young adults have for education and to advance their careers, and double expected earnings. Despite the clear importance of technical programs, the Hutchinson administration has ignored continuing technical education in favor of high school programs and slashed technical school budgets in favor of four-year colleges.

The 25 technical schools Arkansas today, exist as part of larger universities and as independent institutions, and include mechanical, healthcare auxiliary, and construction skills. These programs are particularly underrepresented in the Delta, where there are fewer institutions in proximity to rural communities. Chris Jones prioritizes resourcing communities that have been ignored, including technical programs, which can nearly double expected earnings.

Building an educational landscape that creates multiple pathways to well-paying jobs requires action to expand online and physical access technical schools, fund scholarships for two-year degrees, and establish standards that keep programs competitive despite shifting economic trends.

To support technical schools and build opportunities for vocational education, Chris Jones would:

  • Identify high-growth sectors to highlight in a research-based technical curriculum, like broadband, timber, steel, and electric vehicle manufacturing.

  • Increase access points for technical education by opening more physical school locations (especially in the Delta) and supporting efforts that bring education online, like the Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project.

  • Equip the Arkansas Department of Education to collect clear data to reevaluate programs based on equity and effectiveness in job placement.

  • Leverage state funds to both provide increased scholarship access and give universities the tools to integrate technical certificates into their curricula.