Wanting to give back to the community that gave him a good foundation, Ron Dowda, of West Helena, has decided on a new program at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA)-Helena that provides opportunities to local residents who are unemployable.

Dowda and his wife, Liz, who recently relocated to Helena-West Helena, have made a contribution that is helping fund scholarship opportunities to transform students in the new Transitional Training Opportunity Program (TTOP). 

Joe St. Columbia, Jr., workforce training and development coordinator at PCCUA and coordinator for this program, explained that there is a difference between unemployed and unemployable individuals. He stated that there are an estimated 45,000 unemployed Arkansans, who, in spite of their access to training opportunities, aren’t likely to become employed due to their lack of basic employability skills. TTOP benefits those who are unemployable or lack the basic skills for employment and gives them the chance to earn credentials that make them employable. Made possible by a grant from the Walton Foundation, the new program opened last semester with seven students and has doubled enrollment this semester with a total of 16 students.

The college has designed a curriculum that will help with their transition to the workplace by offering courses/certificates that are needed. Included in this program are the opportunities to earn a certificate of proficiency in advanced manufacturing in one semester, and gain national certifications in CPR, OSHA 10, Career Readiness, and Work Orientation Retaining Keys.

“TTOP completers can walk into job interviews with all of these credentials, which potentially puts them ahead of many applicants,” St. Columbia said.

A native of Helena, Mr. Dowda worked for over 45 years as an IT specialist, before deciding to move back home to Phillips County. Mrs. Dowda is also retired from a long career in data processing.

“When I came back to the town where I grew up,” Mr. Dowd said, “I wanted to reinvest in the community and give something back. By investing in this program, the money stays here, the education is here, the training is here, and the work is here. I believe in the saying: ‘Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’”

With contributions from the Dowdas and other donors, over $15,000 in private funding has been donated to this program for scholarships. If you would like to donate to the TTOP program, please contact Rhonda St. Columbia, PCCUA vice chancellor for college advancement, at 338-6474, ext. 1130.