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NWACC Receives $8 Million Grant to Establish a Trails Technician Program
The NWACC Foundation was recently awarded an $8,000,000 grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to establish a trails technician program and build a state-of-the-art lab at NWACC. Students will be able to gain certification in sustainable trails, trail construction and maintenance, and trails and community development while stacking these courses alongside a bicycle technician certificate or stacking them into an associate degree in construction technology or general technology.
The goal of the trails technician program is to produce a workforce of certified trail technicians with the practical skills and theoretical knowledge necessary to succeed in the trail building, land management and developed recreation sectors.
The program will offer a comprehensive training model that caters to the specific needs of employers, with a focus on innovation, accessibility and flexibility, while giving students access to real-world exposure, continuing education opportunities, and job placement services.
Research, curriculum development and renovation of the college’s former physical plant into a trails lab are planned to begin in 2023 and the trails technician program is scheduled to enroll students in the fall of 2024.
“We are excited to offer Northwest Arkansas a unique trails trade program that will be the first of its kind because of how it uniquely builds upon the college’s bicycle technician, construction and general technology programs, offering graduates a range of professional pathways,” explained NWACC Dean of Workforce & Economic Development Dr. Megan Bolinder. “The grant and trails trade school will help standardize workforce training in trail skills, allow NWACC to respond to the community’s need for trails of all types - mountain bike, hiking, equestrian, shared use, etc.- and elevate the outdoor recreation economy in Northwest Arkansas.”
“Our region has an incredible opportunity to solidify Northwest Arkansas as a major hub for outdoor recreation and our academic institutions play a big role in that,” said Charitable Support Foundation Chairman Steuart Walton. “This new trade school will drive innovation in trail building here in the mountain biking capital of the world, throughout our state, and across the nation.”
NWACC’s trails trade school educational pathways will include a Certificate of Proficiency, a Technical Certificate in Trail Building and Associates of Applied Science in General Technology or Construction with an emphasis in Trail Building, and eventually apprenticeship pathways. Those who want to pursue further education can transfer their college credits to Arkansas Tech University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership online, to John Brown University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Construction or to the University of Arkansas to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and/or a graduate certificate in Landscape Architecture.
Grant funding will also be used to further renovate NWACC’s former physical plant to house the new trails trade school’s lab space, classroom, heavy equipment and fine tools.
NWACC plans to enhance current partnerships with trails management leaders such as the Professional Trail Builders Association and American Trails, and to extend collaboration with The Office of Outdoor Recreation and various government, land management, non-profits and private stakeholders to create an internationally recognized hub for innovation in trail design, maintenance and workforce and employer certification.
Another grant objective is to work toward establishing a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for Sustainable Trails with the Department of Labor so that the trail building industry will have a specific category, be able to obtain data and employment trends and qualify for federal and state funding available to SOC designated trade apprenticeships.
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Visit www.nwacc.edu or call 479-986-4000 to learn more about choosing a higher education with NWACC.