Arkansas Career Training Institute in downtown Hot Springs is one of only eight comprehensive rehabilitation centers in the United States and is leading the charge locally in providing vocational training and employment opportunities to adult clients with disabilities.
Dawn Hamby, director of vocational training at ACTI, addressed the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club's weekly meeting on Wednesday at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa and went in depth about some of the services offered by the organization to qualified individuals.
The third-largest vocational rehabilitation center in the country, ACTI serves more than 400 students annually. Students are referred to the center for evaluation and placement by vocational rehabilitation counselors who are located in 19 field offices across the state. Once enrolled, students have access to vocational training and medical services.
Hamby described ACTI as a "hidden treasure" in Hot Springs. The facility was once the nation's first Army and Navy hospital, which should come as no surprise, she said, because of the city's healing thermal waters. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
ACTI offers more than 20 educational and training programs, each program providing students the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and attitude they will need to meet their goals for successful employment. Ten vocational programs are available for students, allowing them to specialize in everything from automotive service and repair, construction and welding to cosmetology, business and culinary arts.
Currently, Hamby said, 68 percent of high school seniors either go straight to the workforce or pursue some form of secondary training, not necessarily a four-year degree. "This is where career tech education really shines," she said.
ACTI receives 80 percent of its funding from the federal government and 20 percent from the state of Arkansas.
"We are a wonderful use of your tax dollar, primarily because we are getting to work with adult clients with disabilities to provide them free housing, free tuition, books, uniforms, equipment, you name it," Hamby said. "When students come to class, we are not only going to work with them on their education, but through our programs and internships we're going to make sure they get some real-world experience by working, at least for part of the day, in your industry."
Hamby said that in addition to teaching students the skills needed to do their chosen jobs, they are also taught job-seeking skills and how to be a valuable employee for future employers. They learn how to look for employment, complete job applications, prepare resumes and participate in mock job interviews.
"We help our students learn that the folks you work for, it needs to be considered an honor to have that full-time job. You need to work harder than anyone else at that organization and if it requires you getting up early and staying late, there is real value in that type of work ethic," she said. "When I went to college, we didn't get that back then. A lot of your traditional colleges are not going to talk about the workplace skills that we all enjoy when we have somebody who's doing a terrific job."
ACTI also partners with several local businesses to help recently graduated students enter the workforce.
Some of ACTI's programs offer on-the-job training before graduation, Hamby said. For example, students in the Automotive Collision Repair and Automotive Service Technology programs can fix and detail vehicles for a fraction of the normal cost because they cannot charge customers for labor.
"We can fix your car for practically nothing because we're a school. We don't charge you labor; if you've had your car fixed recently you know you're not just paying for the parts," Hamby said. "Now, of course, it's a school, so you might have to leave your car in for a little bit longer than you normally would, but it's a pretty good deal. We'd also love to change your oil for a fraction of the cost, and we can detail your car at ACTI for $10."
Ladies can also visit the students in the Cosmetology program at ACTI for discounted manicures and pedicures.
In addition to career tech training, ACTI also offers basic adult education on campus for students who may still struggle with subjects like math or reading.Local on 09/15/2018