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ATU-Ozark to add allied health building in $6 million campus upgrade

The Arkansas Tech University-Ozark campus will soon be home to a new 20,273-square-foot building designed to support the growing number of students enrolled in health care training programs.

The allied health building was approved by the Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees, along with roof repair at the technology and administrative support building. Both projects are estimated to cost at least $6 million.

Health programs offered at ATU-Ozark include health information technology, physical therapist assistant, cardiovascular technology, occupational therapy assistant, nursing assistant, practical nursing, registered nursing, emergency medical technician, paramedic and human services. The multipurpose facility also will feature offices for faculty and support staff, a fitness center, student lounge areas and a testing center. The building will also have three new computer labs.

“Students, industry and the community will recognize this facility as our commitment to providing quality instruction with access to the latest health care training technology like state of the art labs and clinical simulation stations,” Bruce Sikes, chancellor of Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus, said in a statement.

Sandy Cheffer, chief fiscal officer for Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus, said bidding and contracts could be final by October 2014, with groundbreaking set for October 2014. A targeted completion date is November 2015, with the building scheduled to be open for spring 2016 classes.

As the Fort Smith metro area began to shed manufacturing jobs, the ATU-Ozark campus beefed up health care programs to provide former manufacturing workers with a second career. One of the most recent additions was a cardiovascular technology program that began in the fall of 2013 with students able to participate in clinical rotations. The program is located at Chaffee Crossing instead of the school's primary campus in Ozark because the location allowed students the chance to travel to rotations in regional hospitals in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas areas.

The health services sector has been a job generator for Arkansas and has helped boost employment numbers in the Fort Smith region. The state’s Education and Health Services sector during April had 173,500 jobs, down from the 173,800 during March and up from 172,000 during April 2013. Employment in the sector is up more than 22% compared to April 2004.

In Education & Health Services jobs in the Fort Smith region, employment was an estimated 16,600 during April, up from 16,500 in March but below the 17,100 during April 2013. Annual average monthly employment in the sector has steadily grown since 2005 when it reached 14,000. In 2012 the average was 17,000, but fell slightly to 16,800 in 2013. Employment in the sector reached a record 17,300 in October 2012.

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“We lead the River Valley in health care career training and are appreciative and thankful for the support and confidence of the Board of Trustees at Arkansas Tech and our health care partners,” Sikes said in the statement.

From 2006 to present, enrollment at ATU-Ozark has increased more than 560% and more than 17 new academic and technical programs have been added. In fall 2012, enrollment at ATU-Ozark rose above 2,000 students for the first time.

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