The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas are on to something. If you were at the recent Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) meeting in Nashville, you were fortunate to hear first-hand about the innovative approach the State is taking to promote technical careers to students, parents and school counselors.
With the help of a variety of companies, a mobile workshop called Be Pro, Be Proud was born. It’s a 40-foot expandable trailer designed to travel around the state to highlight 12 careers across a variety of technical fields, including truck technicians and truck drivers. One of the sponsors of the program is Truck Centers of Arkansas. They supplied a Freightliner M102 Sport Chassis truck to pull the tractor, which will travel across the state visiting schools, business and career events.
Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State of Chamber of Commerce, spoke at TMC’s kickoff breakfast about the critical need for an initiative such as this. He said, “We’re here in response to a problem that affects us all, namely, the disconnect between young people and career opportunities.” He also addressed the skills gap that leaves good jobs unfilled because young people don’t have the skills needed “to take advantage of the jobs available.”
He cited some startling statistics. “The trucking industry as a whole is poised to need 4.7 million new workers by 2022 with roughly 10 percent of those being technicians. You know better than I that we are nowhere near prepared to supply the coming demand.”
And while the Be Pro, Be Proud initiative covers more than careers in trucking, it seems like a great way to introduce young people to our industry. The trailer is equipped with simulators and digital content that, according to Zook, “can be touched, tested and explored. Students will be able to compete against their friends in a variety of challenges scoring their time and accuracy.”
In its newsletter, Truck Centers of Arkansas’ Vice President of Customer Relations, Kenneth Calhoun said, “The mobile workstation is paramount to our message that technical fields can be a lucrative entry point to a career path of unlimited potential. Students have no concept that there are such rewarding opportunities in our industry."
Videos will highlight the 12 technical careers and will show students what various workplaces look like, what skills are needed, and what the job responsibilities are. There will also be information on training centers and employers who are looking for workers in each of these careers.
All of us in trucking spend a lot of time complaining about the people shortage. Arkansas is doing something about it — something pretty darn cool. Isn’t it time for the rest of us to do more than talk?