April Ambrose

LITTLE ROCK, AR – This week, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation (AAEF) officially launched a new apprenticeship program enabled through a $2 million dollar, four-year grant from the Arkansas Department of Commerce Office of Skills Development (OSD). AAEF also announced April Ambrose as the new Director of Workforce Development for the program, effective January 1, 2023.

“We look forward to seeing advanced energy industry employers benefit from this partnership, which will help offset their training costs while providing talent pool access to address the industry’s significant growth,” said Cody Waits, Director of the Office of Skills Development. “Initially developed with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences, this concept is a perfect fit to replicate with AAEF as a best practice to support and work directly with industry experts, which will create jobs and pipelines of talent for the sector all while not growing government.”

While there is a high demand for these advanced energy and sustainability industry specialized jobs, the pool of skilled workers is still being developed to meet these needs. AAEF’s apprenticeship program, in partnership with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS), is designed to bridge the skills gap between employers and talent in Arkansas for these occupations. On-the-job training and apprenticeships are expensive and not all companies are able to shoulder the costs required to train the workforce as industry labor needs grow.

AAEF has selected April Ambrose to lead the project and serve as the program’s Director of Workforce Development. Ambrose began working in sustainability during her undergraduate career at Hendrix College. She has been specifically interested in focusing on developing the green jobs workforce in Arkansas since 2004, when she created the Arkansas Earth Day Foundation. She also saw this need first hand during her time at Entegrity where she helped grow the company from 2 to 130 employees. Ambrose will work to coordinate with existing and potential AAEA members interested in benefitting from the program.

"This program allows us to ‘home-grow’ diverse, skills-specific candidates for Arkansas’ emerging sustainability and clean energy companies, while providing high-paying, quality careers with lasting education and accreditations for these workers,” says Ambrose.

After the grant was announced in October 2022, AAEF spent the next few months in conversation with AAEA member, Entegrity, working to establish the initial apprenticeship. “As the pilot employer in this program, Entegrity has already been providing this level of education to their employees and are elated to be recognized and supported by the state for growing their business in this way.” Ambrose comments.

The Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is not new – it already exists through the OSD – but AAEF’s position as a sponsor unique due to the focus on the sustainability and advanced energy industry and the access it provides to AAEA’s membership as employers.

"The members we have across the advanced energy sector are desperate for local talent to address their expanding labor needs as a result of industry growth," said AAEF Executive Director, Lauren Waldrip. "After months of facilitating this partnership, we are appreciative of the resources OSD has allocated to enable a solution that will add value to our industry and the state as a whole."

AAEF’s role as sponsor will effectively be to act as “middle-man” by alleviating the burden and barriers an individual company might encounter in order to become a sponsor itself. The program also allows participating employers to access funding for training expenses. AAEF will assume overhead and admin costs, provide project management of the program, as well as access to a willing talent pool. This will instead allow the apprenticeship company to simply focus on training in conjunction with a number of local participating training partners.

Apprenticeship Director at ACDS, Lonnie Emard has worked closely with AAEF Executive Director Lauren Waldrip and their teams on the initial set-up of the program. "At ACDS, we've always known that our proven model for registered apprenticeship would be repeatable for another industry sector and a new set of occupations,” comments Emard. “The support structure now in place at AAEF, with funding from OSD, helps eliminate every barrier for employers to get started, so they can focus on developing and retaining advanced energy talent to support their growth and success."

This apprenticeship program is one step to connect all components of this pipeline from those interested in a career in advanced energy to industry employers and all the varying training partners in-between. Companies interested in participating may contact April Ambrose directly ataambrose@arkansasadvancedenergy.com.

 About Arkansas Advanced Energy Association

AAEA is dedicated to growing Arkansas’s economy through expanded utilization of advanced energy technologies, including energy efficiency, demand response, natural gas electric generation, solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, electric vehicles, alternative fuels and smart grid. These are innovations that make our energy supply more secure, clean and affordable. AAEA engages in policy advocacy at the federal, state and regulatory levels; industry policy group briefings; targeted outreach to other businesses and policymakers in Arkansas and across the country and regular communications with its members. For more information, visit arkansasadvancedenergy.com.

 About Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation

The Foundation is dedicated to informing the energy policy debate with well-researched, fact-based data on the advanced energy economy in Arkansas and by providing a public forum where state industry and government leaders can address Arkansas’s energy challenges for the future. The Foundation seeks partnerships to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the advanced energy sector.The Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation (AAEF) is the educational affiliate of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA). For more information, visit arkansasadvancedenergyfoundation.org.

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