UA Little Rock and Arkansas Center for Data Sciences Launch Support Program for Computer Science and Cybersecurity Students


The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) has partnered with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences (ACDS) to launch a new program aimed at meeting the growing demand for skilled professionals in computer science and cybersecurity fields in the state. This initiative, introduced in January, provides a structured support pathway for students majoring in these disciplines, offering them opportunities for career advancement and practical experience.

(Photo : UNSPLASH / Sigmund)

According to Albert Baker, chair of computer science at UA Little Rock, the program aims to support students' economic mobility by providing them with paid experiential learning opportunities. Conversations between Baker, Bill Yoder (executive director), and Lonnie Emard (director of apprenticeships) at ACDS led to the establishment of this support pathway.

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Tiered Support Structure

The program operates on a tiered support structure comprising scholarships, internships, and apprenticeships. First- and second-year students pursuing computer science and cybersecurity degrees are eligible for endowed scholarships to encourage their academic pursuits. The department plans to increase the number of scholarships awarded in the future to further support students financially.

After completing their sophomore year, students can apply for internships, which last for three months and are funded by ACDS through federal grants. These internships provide students with valuable work experience and exposure to potential employers in Arkansas. Additionally, students benefit from career coaching throughout the internship period.

Creating Opportunities for Students

The apprenticeship component of the program offers students the opportunity to work as full-time employees for at least one year, receiving competitive salaries and on-the-job training from experienced mentors. While participation in apprenticeships may extend students' time to degree completion, it provides them with invaluable industry experience and skill development.

Unlike traditional job boards, ACDS's portal connects students with over 130 employers in Arkansas actively seeking cybersecurity and computer science professionals. This streamlined approach facilitates students' access to internship and job opportunities in their field, contributing to workforce development efforts in the state.

Moving forward, UA Little Rock plans to promote the program to current and prospective students through targeted messaging campaigns. The university aims to attract a diverse range of learners, including traditional-age students and adult learners seeking to upskill or reskill in cybersecurity and computer science.

The early success of the program, with six students applying for internships and three companies participating as hosts, underscores the enthusiasm and commitment of both students and industry partners. UA Little Rock remains dedicated to fostering closer ties between academia and industry to better prepare students for successful careers in high-demand fields.

Moreover, the program aligns with the state's broader workforce development goals, addressing the critical need for skilled professionals in computer science and cybersecurity. By providing students with paid experiential learning opportunities, UA Little Rock aims to enhance students' employability and contribute to the growth and prosperity of Arkansas's tech industry.

Expanding Reach and Impact

In addition to its immediate benefits for students, the program also has the potential to expand its reach and impact in the coming years. UA Little Rock plans to collaborate with other educational institutions, government agencies, and industry partners to scale up the initiative and reach a wider audience of learners.

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