Philander Smith Awarded $2.5 Million to Establish Workforce Training Program

The new initiative is expected to create dozens of new job opportunities.

Philander Smith College campus
Photo courtesy of Philander Smith College.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $2.5 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to Philander Smith College to develop the HBCU Center of Excellence in Digital Education and Rural Workforce Development. This EDA grant, to be matched with $638,420 in local investment, is expected to create 65 jobs and generate $400,000 in private investment, according to a news release.

“The Biden administration is committed to putting Americans back to work and providing the training needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities play an important role in creating economic opportunity in their communities, and through this EDA investment Philander Smith College will develop and build a comprehensive digital learning center to provide students with the skills and opportunities needed to earn well-paying, quality jobs.”

The grant will allow college officials to renovate the M.L. Harris Fine Arts Building to develop the new center, Philander Smith president Roderick Smothers said.

“Workforce training and education are essential parts of economic development and recovery,” Senator John Boozman said. “Creating a dedicated place for this effort on the campus of Philander Smith College will help realize opportunities to strengthen the region’s ability to attract new industries, expand existing businesses and help workers acquire the skills needed to fill good jobs.”

This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance program, provides a wide range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

“For almost 150 years, Philander Smith College has played a vital role in educating and improving economic conditions for generations of minority students in Arkansas,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. “The pandemic has also disproportionately affected minority-owned businesses, but I am confident that the funds from this CARES grant will support COVID recovery efforts by creating jobs and also by giving qualified workers the skills they need to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy.”