State Chamber planning workforce needs, opportunities push

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 384 views 

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is preparing a major campaign to call attention to the state’s workforce needs and opportunities. Meanwhile, legislators are preparing to consider a package of workforce-related bills.

State Chamber CEO Randy Zook said Monday that the Chamber is in the middle of raising money for a multi-year informational campaign beginning later this spring or in the early summer. He declined to say how much the Chamber would try to raise but did say it would be a multi-million dollar campaign.

“It’s going to be a major effort, and the reception for it has been nearly universal,” he said. “People get it when they realize we’ve got to do something, and people are stepping up to it.”

Zook said the effort will involve a media campaign, earned press coverage, social media promotion, and mobile activities such as a tractor-trailer that travels to schools and public events. The message, he said, will be that there are “a lot of roads to success in the U.S. economy.”

The Chamber already has been working to raise awareness of workforce deficiencies that are causing jobs to be unfilled, including hosting a Jobs Now workforce summit last year.

“We’ve got to address it because business is not seeing the candidates in quantity or quality that they need to meet their current workforce needs in many cases. … I think this is an awareness that’s growing and continues to gain strength and momentum,” he said.

Zook has been working with Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, the chair of the Senate Education Committee who is expected to unveil a package of workforce-related bills soon. English, previously a private option opponent, agreed to vote for the program in the 2014 fiscal session in exchange for a commitment from then-Gov. Mike Beebe to revamp the state’s workforce eduction efforts. English spent much of the year meeting weekly with state education and economic development officials.

Zook said the package will be “nuts and bolts kind of things.”

“These steps that she’s proposing are going to be constructive and very doable and will encourage the longer range activity to make sure that we’re continuing to work on this,” Zook said.