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CONWAY -- The University of Central Arkansas will offer a new, three-month program aimed at preparing students for new careers in information technology, particularly coding.

The Arkansas Coding Academy will begin its first three-month session starting Aug. 22 and can accommodate up to 15 students, academy Director Mary Dunlap said Tuesday.

Coding refers to such technological activities as the creation of apps, websites and programs for smart, or high-tech, appliances.

Nine students already have enrolled, Dunlap said during a news conference announcing the full-time "boot camp program" that will run from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program is part of UCA's Division of Outreach and Community Engagement, which offers noncredit, continuing education and outreach opportunities.

The cost to participate will be $6,000, which includes a MacBook that students will use for assignments.

No special prerequisites or educational background is required other than "the desire and willingness to learn," UCA said in a news release.

People interested may complete an application at arkansascodingacademy.com. The program's director and instructors will then interview candidates before deciding whether to accept them into the academy.

Students completing the academy will get a certificate, an updated resume and portfolio, help with the job search and staff recommendations, but the academy will not include a formal job-placement component.

"The Arkansas Coding Academy will not only fill a void in the state for an educated workforce in the areas of technology and computer programming but will also provide the talent that our new tech startup and existing companies need around the state," UCA President Tom Courtway said in the release.

"The challenge we have sometimes locally is to provide enough talent" to develop the economy, said UCA Trustee Brad Lacy, who also heads the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. "We have to step outside of our traditional box and learn how to deliver education" faster and in a more relevant way.

Lacy said the Conway area alone will need "several hundred programmers" in the next few years.

"We are in a [technological] revolution," said Daryl Bassett, director of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. "I don't want Arkansas to sleep through the revolution."

That department, along with the U.S. Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration, has partnered with UCA in recruiting and providing funds for dislocated workers and others to complete the program, UCA said. Among the other partners are Acxiom, the local chamber of commerce, JB Hunt, First Orion Corp. and Rockfish Digital.

Metova Inc., an app development company with offices in Conway and Fayetteville, played a major role in facilitating the establishment of the academy, the university said in its release.

Kent Watson, vice president of technology for Metova, said in remarks prepared for delivery that people "could sit and watch workforce reductions due to automation, or we can lead by training the next generation of in-demand, high-skilled workers."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has made computer coding a state priority and pushed a bill to provide funding for teacher training and mandating that high schools offer the courses.

Hutchinson did not attend Tuesday's news conference but said in a release that "Metova and UCA's coding academy, combined with our state's efforts to provide computer science classes for all students, will continue to raise [Arkansas'] stature as a state ripe for tech sector investment."

State Desk on 07/20/2016

Print Headline: UCA set to offer coding program

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