Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke about how education and industry partners like Euronet and UA Little Rock can work together to build the state’s technology workforce during a Technology Careers Town Hall Meeting hosted by Euronet and UA Little Rock on Nov. 5.
“I am very proud of Dr. Whitman and the work you are doing here to focus on computer science and cybersecurity,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “The role UALR plays is critical to our state. You are the hub right here in the capital city. You have a great program that is very historic, that is well recognized, and producing graduates. I’m here today to kick off and emphasize how important this is to our state.”
The town hall meeting was dedicated to encouraging students to pursue careers in information technology and coding.
“Euronet Software is a huge supporter of the great programs at University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” Warren said. “We believe the people in this room represent the future of technology in our state, our nation, and our world. The university teaches students to be well rounded in all aspects of Information Technology (IT) and produces excellent candidates for our many job openings in IT.”
The technology career panelists included Whitman; David Sanders, technical product owner, Euronet; T.J. Mahaffey, software development manager, Euronet; Mary Gay Olsen, senior director of development, Euronet; Jerry Horani, chief technology officer and chief information officer for VCC Construction; Joshua Carroll, client solutions architect, Euronet, and an announcer for Little Rock Trojans, who moderated the panel.
“I really do believe that the future is what you guys are doing,” Whitman said. “The opportunities are limitless, and I am glad you are taking advantage of this panel. I really think the key is paying attention to what they are saying. They want people who really care about what they are doing, who are innovative, and who are really passionate about their work.”
Getting an inside track on technology careers
The panelists also gave students an inside look at their careers, how the hiring process works, and what they should be doing as students to get an edge in their careers.
Horani, who is a 2002 graduate of UA Little Rock, spoke about the value of internships for students. Horani got an internship at VCC Construction, which builds and develops software solutions for the construction industry, and has worked there ever since.
“I really feel that being a student, going to school, and having the school find an internship helped make a bridge from a student to the workplace,” Horani said. “I think it’s a really awesome thing that UA Little Rock does. I try to do more of it now that I can. I go and work with students to bring their talents to the workplace. There is a lot of need for your talent. I can tell you almost every company in town is looking for technology engineers to be a part of their teams.”
At Euronet, the recruiting process begins with a screening with an internal recruiter, followed by an interview with a hiring manager and members of the team to make sure you fit in with the team.
“We have internal recruiters because they understand our company and our culture and our needs,” Olsen said. “It’s really to get a feel for if the position is what you are looking for. Believe it or not, the interview process is a two-way street. The company wants to make sure you are a right fit for them, but you also need to make sure the company is a right fit for you.”
Expanding technology education and careers in Arkansas
One of Gov. Hutchinson’s goals has been to expand computer science education in the state. Arkansas became the first state in the nation to mandate that computer science classes are offered in high school. High school students taking computer science in Arkansas has increased 20 percent in the last year alone. There are now more than 12,500 high school students in Arkansas taking computer science classes.
“Arkansas is leading the nation in comprehensive computer science education programming,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “The fact is that the national average for schools that offer computer science is 52 percent. Arkansas leads the nation with 92 percent of our high schools offering computer science.”
In addition to increasing computer science education, Gov. Hutchinson said that working with industry partners has been a key to success for expanding computer science education and workforce opportunities.
“That is where Euronet Global has been so critical,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “They are here because we have to make sure education matches the needs of industry and that we have a good communication flow. We are partnering with industry and this panel today demonstrates that.”
Gov. Hutchinson has also worked to make sure that job opportunities are available in Arkansas so that graduates don’t have to move out of state.
“I wanted to create a micro hub of technology companies and startup companies here in this state as well as to have the talent pool understand the needs of our long-term industries,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “We created an accelerator program where the state puts in money and partners with industry in certain categories, (fintech and healthcare). We put in funds and industry matches it and all of a sudden we’re bringing startup company talent from across the globe right here in Little Rock, Arkansas. We are growing in our technology startup companies as well as our major industries that need our tech talent. That has exceeded my expectations.”
The day after the panel, Gov. Hutchinson traveled to Israel on an international economic development trip where he would speak at the Prime Minister’s Smart Mobility Conference that focuses on technology and solutions for the future of transportation.