Little Rock, AR – The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas (ASCC/AIA) recently announced the launch of a new initiative, “Be Pro Be Proud,” to bring a new generation of pride, progress and professionals to Arkansas’s skilled workforce.
Today’s skilled professional workforce is aging out and the next generation of new talent is not sufficient to fill the demand. Nationwide, there are an estimated 5.6 million job openings, with approximately 60,000 of these openings here in Arkansas. The majority of these are in high skilled technical fields. This gap in our state’s employment can be directly attributed to a lack of knowledge, interest and preparation. These jobs make up a vast majority of the manufacturing sector, which represents more than 90 percent of Arkansas’s exports, and are a cornerstone to the state’s economy. In addition, industries such as construction and trucking are also struggling to find qualified technical professionals.
“I continue to be a huge advocate for training our state’s workforce so we can reduce the skilled trade job gap and better compete in the global marketplace,” said the Hon. Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas. “I encourage everyone to be a part of the ‘Be Pro Be Proud’ movement. It shows that we are serious about educating parents and young people about these career paths that are essential to our state’s economic growth.”
The initiative targets many key audiences including high school and nontraditional students, current skilled professionals, legislators, parents, teachers, career coaches and employers to dispel the myths about skilled trade professions, showcase current skilled professionals’ true vocational pride, highlight the many career opportunities available within these trades and provide necessary resources and training to those interested.
“The reality is that many of these professions today take place in technologically advanced facilities with the latest tools, and there are many opportunities for Arkansans with the right skills to have a successful career with high wages in a skilled trade,” said Randy Zook, President and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “We must make sure our young people know of these opportunities and have access to the appropriate resources and training to succeed in a globally competitive environment. The “Be Pro Be Proud” initiative will help in this effort.”
Research conducted prior to the development of this campaign indicates that 82 percent of companies regularly have positions they are unable to fill with qualified workers. Furthermore, 44 percent of average, entry-level salaries for these open positions start at or above $31,000.
The Delta Regional Authority, Walmart, Truck Centers of Arkansas, Arkansas Trucking Association, Associated General Contractors of America – Arkansas, Nucor Steel, Entergy, Welsco, Haas Automation, Pace Industries, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, and the Arkansas Department of Career Education, have voiced their support for this initiative, including providing financial support of the campaign.
“Walmart’s investment in domestic manufacturing education and experience will help create additional jobs not just in Arkansas, but throughout the United States, and that's good for American businesses and our local communities,” said Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of U.S. Sourcing and Manufacturing at Walmart. “Walmart is proud to play a large role in the communities we serve.”
The “Be Pro Be Proud” initiative launching today is using a mobile unit to travel the state and visit companies, schools and events to showcase skilled trade professions and broaden awareness of their impact on our state’s workforce. The “Be Arkansas Pro” mobile unit is an engaging tool that will provide information about training resources, currently available positions and descriptions, skills needed, and how to start the process of starting a skilled professional career.
“As we are seeing more and more companies come back to America and locate in the Midsouth, our communities must have a skilled and abundant workforce to attract jobs and support businesses as they grow in our region,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. “This initiative will provide students, families, and community leaders in Arkansas’s Delta region with the information and inspiration to obtain technical skills and career training that meets the needs of businesses and industries to attract good-paying jobs to Delta Communities.”
The initiative also has a website, BeProBeProud.org, which serves as a content hub for young professionals to learn more and even find training and job opportunities. Employers can also use the site to actively engage students, current skilled trade professionals can become ambassadors and work with students to spur interest, and parents and educators can arm themselves with the necessary materials for encouraging students to learn about potential career opportunities. Social media channels designed to help keep top-of-mind awareness about the need for skilled professionals will also support the initiative and provide relevant updates during the campaign.