Leaders from some of the region's most successful startups listen during a luncheon with College of Engineering Dean Kim Needy.

Ethan Olsen

Leaders from some of the region’s most successful startups listen during a luncheon with College of Engineering Dean Kim Needy.

The College of Engineering recently gathered some of the best minds in Northwest Arkansas’ startup industries for an exchange of ideas about how the college can supply well prepared talent and help to elevate the area’s status as an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Dean Kim Needy told the group she knows the area needs more engineers, especially in computer science and data analytics, and the college must increase its enrollment and output of graduates.

She welcomed their ideas about the strategies and focus needed to prepare a workforce that can help their ventures thrive and grow.

“We’re in the midst of a perfect storm of population growth and expanding interest in research, technology and entrepreneurial development. We believe the college can be a driving force to help transform our region — already a successful hub for startups — and elevate it to the next level,” she said.

Those attending included:

●     Jeff Amerine, founder and managing director, Startup Junkie Consulting

●     Carter Malloy, founder and CEO, AcreTrader

●     Jon Gaebe, director, product management and software development, AcreTrader

●     Amanda Earhart, co-founder and CEO, PushKin

●     Dan Sanker, president and CEO, CaseStack

●     Vance Clement, CEO, Lineus Medical

●     TJ Sangam, co-founder and CEO, SupplyPike

University leaders attending included David Snow, executive director of technology ventures, and Mike Malone, vice chancellor for economic development.

Malloy said his company recently hired a U of A engineering graduate at a very competitive salary, but does not get enough applicants to fill needed slots.

“We’d hire 50 more if we could,” he said.

Several attendees said all disciplines of engineering are important, but the greatest need is for data and computer scientists.

Amerine said he’d like to see an expansion of certificate programs for mid- and upper-level talent to further develop the existing area workforce.

Other discussions included ways to promote startups’ and small businesses’ job opportunities to faculty and students, increasing internships and replicating successful entrepreneurial programs on campus.

Sanker said the key is attracting best of class faculty, as they are the biggest driver in attracting the best students and ample funding.

Needy plans to reconnect with the group to continue discussions and held similar sessions with alumni groups at Tyson Foods Inc. and JB Hunt.

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