American Welding Laboratories is a proprietary vocational school. We have met all of the requirements necessary to accept funds from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as well as other state and federally-funded programs through agencies like AR Rehabilitations Services and WAGE funding from programs offered through the Fort Smith Adult Education Center. WIOA is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. The most notable requirement is that we must have met the standards to achieve licensure through the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education. The Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education was established to provide consumer protection for students that enroll in private post-secondary career schools. A.C.A.§ 6-51-601 gives the Board responsibility for oversight, specifically for training that:
Leads to or enhances occupational qualifications,
In airframe or power plant mechanics;
As preparation for passing exams which may lead to employment; or
In driver education, excluding those courses taught to motor vehicle violators under court order
To obtain licensure through the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education meant we had to meet multiple standards of quality in our instructors, curriculum, facility, administrative staff, and administrative procedures to ensure academic standards were met. We met all those standards.
We are currently and actively pursuing our licensure through the Arkansas State Approving Agency for Veteran Affairs at the Arkansas Department of Education to be able to accept funds from the GI Bill. This should be completed by the summer of 2024.
While accreditation is not required for proprietary schools to operate or for students to advance and graduate, an advantage is that accreditation provides people with assurance that a school has met even more rigorous standards set forth by an outside professional educational organization. It also means that the school is actively engaged in self-assessment and improvement.
AWL is considering seeking accreditation from the Commission of the Council On Occupational Education. The Council on Occupational Education (COE) accredits post-secondary occupational institutions that offer certificate, diploma, or applied associate degree programs. Accreditation is a long process and one that requires us to meet several benchmarks along the way. Typically, the process can take several years. We will keep our community informed of our progress toward this goal.
A note about accreditation: There is a lot of confusion about accreditation. The only disadvantage to not being accredited is not being able to accept FAFSA, which is Federal Student Aid that offers grants, loans, work-study, and more to help pay for career school. To negate this, AWL has partnered with Lenders like the Arkansas Rural Endowment Fund and MIA Share who specialize in loans to trade students. This helps provide other options to people who might not qualify for WIOA, WAGE, or other state and federal grants aimed at workforce development.