BY MELANIE WADE –
The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services in Mena is changing locations after being in the Northside Shopping Center for more than 40 years. The move is the result of several partners coming together with a vision of being under one roof.
Tom Bonkofsky of Mena’s Workforce Center said that they have partnered with UA-Rich Mountain, Rich Mountain Adult Education, Arkansas Rehab, and Western Arkansas Employment Development Agency for several years because the benefits each agency offers works hand in hand.
With all of those partners on one campus, with the exception of the Workforce Office, the decision was made to move them under the same roof. UARM President Dr. Phillip Wilson explained the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a United States public law that consolidates job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) into a single funding stream. The program encourages government entities to find ways to collaborate for the betterment of the entire system. “Workforce Services was looking for partners, as was our Adult Basic Education and our Career Pathways. All three fall under some of the same legislation so it just makes sense that all three of these components come together and work in the same proximity. A lot of their clients are going to need retraining, or their GED, as well as our Career Pathway students looking for job employment. There is a lot of synergy between the three,” Wilson said.
For the partnership to have the most optimum results, the local Workforce Services Office will move into the Abernathy Building on UARM’s campus. Workforces Services will continue to offer all of their benefits to all citizens there. UA-Rich Mountain has remodeled the Abernathy Building to house the Workforce Center, who will rent out the space from the college. The newly renovated building will house ADWS, UARM’s TRIO program, including Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, the GED program, and Career Pathways. The Double-Nickel Program (formerly known as the 60-plus program) has moved into the Maddox Building.
“We’re excited for the partnership, remodel, and the dollars gained from the rental,” Wilson explained. “The rent will pay for the construction and it will allow us to remodel our two science labs and bring them up to date.”
Bonkofsky said the ADWS offices will be closed on September 28, 2017 for the move and will re-open at their new location at 8 a.m. on September 29. He also said their current staff of Kristina Davis, Michael Howell, Shawn Erickson, and Shari Dominguez will continue to provide assistance in job search/job preparation, unemployment insurance claims and Transition Employment Assistance/Work Pays programs. “The new Workforce Center will allow us to broaden our services with the assistance of our partners,” said Bonkofsky.
This will be the sixth Arkansas Workforce Office to make the transition to college campuses in the state, but the first in Western Arkansas. The other programs in West Memphis, Blytheville, Newport, Camden, and Magnolia, have had positive impact on clients, and Bonkofsky, as well as the other program directors, believe it’s a great move for their clients as well.