Weekly Columns

Arkansas youth have adapted to changes in how and where they learn in recent years. Our students have demonstrated their ability to quickly adjust to shifting circumstances. As high school students prepare for their next chapter, we need to ensure they have the tools and resources to be successful. There are exciting workforce development opportunities in The Natural State helping to shape bright futures for these young people. 

We need a workforce trained to fit the modern economy and meet evolving needs of employers. The good news is business leaders, educators and lawmakers in Arkansas understand this and have been building a foundation to support continued economic growth and development.

Programs such as the Be Pro, Be Proud initiative connect young Arkansans with technical careers, helping them explore their interests and develop skills to better plan their professional path. One of the things that makes this experience unique is how it reaches Arkansans where they live. It’s a mobile workshop exposing high schoolers to a hands-on introduction to the technology used in well-paying, in demand jobs.

I recently met with Be Pro Be Proud leaders who are rightfully very encouraged at how the program is delivering positive results. The 18-wheeler mobile workshop has shown students in 445 towns across the state the possibilities for careers requiring specialized training, but not a four-year college degree. According to 80 percent of teachers in those communities, one or more of their at-risk students are encouraged to stay in school as a result of their experience.

We can be proud Arkansans and leaders at all levels are creating a pipeline of interested and prepared candidates for trade jobs with this approach. Arkansas is leading by example and demonstrating the value this innovative solution delivers to bridging the gap in available skilled-technical workers. This program has launched in several locations across the country and continues to grow in our state.

As skilled professionals retire, we need qualified workers who are ready to fill these vacancies as well as step into positions created by new employers attracted to The Natural State’s economic environment.

A highly skilled, well-trained labor force is key to positioning our communities to take advantage of current and future opportunities. I’ve been proud of the ongoing efforts throughout Arkansas to create programs tailored to local needs. Partnerships with schools and businesses have proven critical to developing coursework for appropriate training so students have the skills to support existing industries and attract new and emerging ones.  

I recently saw how the Northwest Arkansas Regional Robotics Training Lab developed by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and Northwest Arkansas Community College is creating a path for future business and growing the region’s skilled labor. 

It’s great to see the enthusiasm of so many people excited to make a difference in the livelihoods of the next generation and actively shape Arkansas’s economy for years to come. I’m proud to support workforce development initiatives so future Arkansans have more opportunities for well-paying jobs in long, rewarding careers.