What We Identified

Many local families do not have the income necessary to support living in Northwest Arkansas.

Census data reveal that 67% of jobs in Northwest Arkansas pay $50,000 or less, which represents some 150,000 people that are employed but at high risk of financial instability. From the outside, these working families appear to be stable, but these lower-wage jobs do not provide the income necessary to support living in a region where affordable housing, health care, or child care is harder to come by. As a result, these families are usually one unexpected event away from spiraling into crisis. 

 Meanwhile, job opportunities increased by almost 11% in Northwest Arkansas between 2015 and 2020, and this high level of growth is forecast to continue over the coming years. More than 125,000 members of the local workforce, though, are on the verge of retirement. A new, skilled workforce will soon be needed to ensure that the regional economy continues to strengthen and adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the decades ahead.

 Yet two thirds of the current and upcoming workforce have less than a bachelor’s degree, while the sectors with the highest demand for jobs require increasingly skilled employees. Importing such labor—some of it only temporary—has tried to fill the gap, but it continues to be a lengthy, expensive, and unsustainable practice.


The solution lies in tackling both problems at once.

An intervention that jump-starts the growth of the local labor force for the region’s most vibrant industries while also lifting households out of financial uncertainty by preparing them to succeed in high demand, living wage jobs would address several of the biggest issues facing Northwest Arkansas in one stroke. The impact would be felt at the individual, business, and municipal levels through reduced household instability, rising work productivity, and increased revenues over time.

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Upskill NWA
Upskill NWA will empower and prepare residents of Northwest Arkansas to pursue in-demand careers that have opportunities for advancement and provide financial stability for their families.