UACCB graduates prepared to fill employers' needs in high-demand trade fields

Scotty Brewer works on a project during an AC/DC electrical class at UACCB. According to the 2018 Arkansas Economic Security Report, UACCB graduates in the electrical/electronics equipment installation and repair category had a 92 percent employment rate in 2016 and 2017, including both full-time and part-time employees, within the first year after graduation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that installation, maintenance, and repair occupations will grow 7 percent between 2016-2026, which will result in approximately 388,200 new jobs. Zach Harber, director of career and technical education at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, said UACCB graduates are prepared to meet the demand for skilled professionals to fill these occupations.

“Based on local and regional employer input, there is a major shortage of applicants that have a solid foundation in technical training. Our industrial technology graduates receive a solid foundation in mechatronics, electrical controls, hydraulics, pneumatics, and thermal systems,” Harber said. “After completing the program, they are proficient in a variety of skill sets that are utilized in advanced manufacturing facilities, HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning], and welding industries.” Harber said graduates of the industrial technology program would be prepared for positions as maintenance technicians, mechanical and electrical technicians, and technical operators in a variety of fields.

According to the 2018 Arkansas Economic Security Report, UACCB graduates in the electrical/electronics equipment installation and repair category had a 92 percent employment rate in 2016 and 2017, including both full-time and part-time employees, within the first year after graduation. The average first-year salary was $33,005, and the average full-time salary was $43,976. UACCB also saw growth in statistics reported for graduates receiving a certificate of proficiency in welding compared to those reported in 2017. The full-time employment average one year after graduation reported in the 2018 economic security report was 65 percent compared to 58 percent reported in 2017, and full-time average salary reported in 2018 was $32,127 compared to $26,662 reported in 2017.

Stacy Gunderman, director of administration for FutureFuel Chemical Company, said employees with technical and mechanical skills would be crucial for upcoming projects in 2019.

“FutureFuel expects to have openings for pipe welders, pipefitters, and electricians in 2019.  We recently promoted two employees with HVAC experience into HVAC mechanic roles. UACCB's offering of the National Electric Code refresher training allow our electricians and control systems maintenance mechanics to remain up-to-date on code changes and continuing education requirements,” she said.  

Gunderman added that the company seeks candidates who understand the importance of continuing education and learning. 

“We are a very different type of industry, and candidates have to be open to learning a whole new way of looking at their craft.  Safety first.  Quality and attention to detail and procedures always,” she said. “Although FutureFuel has an internal apprentice program for electrical and mechanical maintenance, applicants are required to have either an associate degree or 4 years of experience in those fields. UACCB's industrial training and HVAC programs have provided excellent feeder candidates for our selection process.” 

Mike Arnold, owner of Precise Heating, Air, and Electrical Services, said that the training he received in UACCB’s electrical apprenticeship helped him thoroughly understand his trade and was a major factor in him becoming a master electrician and business owner.

“Good qualified electricians, electrical apprentices, HVAC installers, and HVAC service technicians are in high demand, and the sky is the limit on the amount of earning potential these tradesmen can make. We have several employees making $50,000 to $60,000 per year at our company,” Arnold said. “We have used UACCB’s existing programs to recruit and employee skilled people for our business. The issue we have in the growth of our company is the low enrollment and completion rates in these types of programs. We have a big need for licensed electricians and HVAC service technicians, which has a starting rate at $35,000 to $40,000 per year with sales bonuses and performance bonuses.”

Arnold said he would like to see the number of students in all trade classes double in the next year. “We are seeing a boom in the construction business right now. With the current administration we have in our local, state, and federal government, this is a hot market to be in. The only issue I foresee is that by the time these skilled people receive their certificate of completion and become licensed skilled employees, we could be in another recession with slow growth in construction, so the need for these people to join these programs right away is necessary for everyone.”

Harber echoed Arnold’s sentiment that the career outlook for graduates entering any industrial technology field is promising. “There’s a lot of room for career advancement and mobility within these professions. These types of degrees provide a platform to obtain a career that provides a sustaining wage, which allows employees to pursue their life goals,” Harber said.