A former Pea Ridge School District superintendent is joining Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s staff to serve as the director of Workforce, Education and Data Transformation.
Hutchinson has tapped Rick Neal to serve in this role. As the director, Neal will oversee the Arkansas Ready for Life initiative. Announced in January 2021, the Arkansas Ready for Life initiative is designed to assist workers improve skills and gather career and unemployment data from businesses in an effort to enhance the state’s workforce.
Neal will be charged with overseeing the gathering and analysis of data for educational institutions, state agencies, businesses and industries. He will also head up the development of the Ready for Life learning management system and work to build partnerships among educational institutions, state agencies and industry officials.
Multiple state agencies, including the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce; the Arkansas Economic Development Commission; the Division of Workforce Services; K-12; the Departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Agriculture; and Institutions of Higher Education, have partnered on Arkansas Ready for Life.
“Ready for Life combines a trove of information that will allow employers and job seekers to more easily find each other,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “During Rick’s time as a principal and superintendent at Pea Ridge, the school district thrived. He is an energetic administrator with the creativity to help mold Ready for Life into an effective program that will strengthen our workforce, which makes Arkansas a better place for everyone.”
At the announcement of the initiative, Hutchinson allocated $14.7 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds to support the program.
Most recently, Neal served as the Education to Employee Director for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas. He previously served as the superintendent of the Pea Ridge School and the principal of Pea Ridge High School. Neal has 36 years of public education experience and also was a middle school principal at Berryville Middle School.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education, a master’s degree in education administration and an education specialist degree from the University of Arkansas.