The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has received nearly $2 million in grants from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for the continuation of the university’s Regional Workforce Grant programs, hailed as “the statewide model for public-private partnerships.”

With the extra funds, UAFS will offer concurrent credit courses to students at local high schools for two more years in robot automation and cyber systems to help address the skills gaps in those fields. A skills gap refers to a career field with a disparity between preferred qualifications of employers and the actual qualifications of employees seeking jobs in the field.

A $999,999 grant for cyber systems and a $997,891 grant for robotics automation will fund concurrent credit courses at Fort Smith, Greenwood, Charleston and Alma public schools, in addition to the Future School of Fort Smith. Instead of being offered at local high schools, the courses will be offered on-site at local industries – robotics automation at ABB and cyber systems at ArcBest – to immerse students in real-world work environments.

Another addition to the program is the Career Camp, through which a cohort of eighth grade students in Fort Smith Public Schools will be introduced to high-demand career fields – such as manufacturing and information technology – via tours of local businesses and industry partners. The camp, which is expected to take place throughout the fall semester, will end with students creating a career plan.

“The industry and K-12 partnerships formed by UAFS in connection with the Regional Workforce Grants are critical to the overall mission of the grants,” said Amanda Seidenzahl, director of the Regional Workforce Grants. “The Career Camp is a valuable opportunity to provide an even earlier connection for students to learn about in-demand career options available in the Fort Smith region.”

Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology at UAFS, thanked ADHE for their support of a “world-class” educational program.

“We are very thankful to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and Director Maria Markham for her visionary approach to improving workforce education,” Warden said. “UAFS will leverage this grant, which has become the statewide model for public-private partnerships, to continue offering world-class educational opportunities to students in our region.”

ADHE Director Maria Markham praised the program’s innovation and collaboration.

“The Regional Workforce Grant Committee is pleased to award a continuation grant to UAFS. Amanda Seidenzahl and the Regional Workforce staff at UAFS have innovatively leveraged their partnerships with local industry to the benefit of students with proven outcomes,” Markham said. “This coordination between high school students, college students, and industry is influential to create a successful economic climate in Arkansas.”

For more information about the grants, contact Seidenzahl at 479-788-7780 or