SPRINGDALE -- A $3 million expansion of refrigeration technology at Northwest Technical Institute will make its learning program a national leader in the field, according to businesses that donated two-thirds of the cost.
The first stages of the project are expected to be open by September of next year.
Plans for the ammonia technology and industrial maintenance center were included in a report last month from the Northwest Arkansas Council, a group of area business leaders. Another gift to the school will go to construction of a welding facility, according to the council. Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the formal announcement Wednesday that set out details of the refrigeration program.
Private industry, including Tyson Foods, gave $2 million toward the program. The governor announced he was releasing $1 million of his discretionary funds for the remainder. About $900,000 will go into renovating space at the institute, and the rest will go into new equipment and construction.
Tyson is contributing $1 million to the center while 17 other business are making contributions ranging from money to technical support and donating state-of-the-art industrial refrigeration equipment, according to Wednesday's announcement.
Northwest Technical Institute is a state-supported school, which offers programs for high school students and adults in industrial maintenance, diesel technology, nursing and information technology. The center will attract students from all over the country, predicted David Rook, associate director of refrigeration training for Tyson Foods.
A graduate of such a year-long program can expect a starting salary of $48,000, according to industry figures, and will rise rapidly with experience and added responsibilities. The new facility will add at least 18,000 square feet to the school's refrigeration training space at 604 Bain St. in Springdale.
The number of students the facility can handle isn't determined yet, but demand is expected to be high, Rook said. Curriculum details are also being worked out, he said.
At least 75 positions for trained refrigeration technicians are immediately available in Northwest Arkansas, he said. The shortage is severe and nationwide, he said.
Blake Robertson, president of the institute, said the project is an outstanding example of the kind of private and public support he called for earlier this month, when the Northwest Arkansas Council report came out.
"It is going to increase our visibility beyond that of a regional career education center into one that is nationally known," he said.
Hutchinson said Arkansas in general and Northwest Arkansas in particular is being recognized as a leader in the field of career-oriented education.
In his remarks at the plan's announcement, Hutchinson noted President Donald Trump invited him to Tuesday's signing ceremony for legislation updating the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The governor is the chairman of the National Governor's Association committee on career education. He holds that position in part because of the state's efforts in that field, he said.
NW News on 08/02/2018