With 82 percent of manufacturers reporting a shortage in skilled production workers, and more than 23 percent of current skilled professionals near retirement age, the state of Arkansas has been in a tight spot when it comes to the future of its workforce. Action needed to be taken to both spread awareness of the issue and change perceptions around the types of jobs, growth opportunities and salaries available to skilled labor professionals in the state. So when the going got tough, the tough turned to experiential. Enter: the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce’s Be Pro Be Proud mobile tour.
Launched in March, the tour is making over 130 stops at high schools, community colleges and festivals in an effort to introduce local students to the various industries in need of skilled workers through immersive, hands-on experiences. Aboard a customized trailer, participants have the chance to explore 12 high-demand, high-wage career opportunities, including plumbing, computer programming, diesel technology and CNC machine operation.
In addition to informational videos, each of the vehicle’s career stations features a hands-on experience in which students are challenged to complete a task. The plumbing zone, for example, requires participants to break down and rebuild a piping structure, while the CNC area allows students to interact with a machine-controlled panel. One of the most popular engagements is the welding simulator in which participants wear welding hoods and use a simulated rod to complete a virtual weld, then receive a score based on their performance.
For residents whose interest has been piqued by the tour, the Chamber offers a microsite where more information is available on training opportunities as well as detailed job descriptions, locations and openings. Heavy promotion of the tour on social media is also helping to fuel the digital portion of the campaign.
“It’s pretty exciting to see kids respond to [the tour] because it’s a lot of fun,” says Randy Zook, president and ceo of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “The measure, ultimately, will be how many kids step into some career and technical ed programs in high school before they graduate, plus kids starting to enroll in more post-secondary technical training… A lot of this stuff is getting kids to realize these careers are really enormous opportunities for a pride-based approach to work.” Agencies: Stone Ward, Little Rock, AR; Bespoke Sports & Entertainment, Charlotte, NC.