The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas (ASCC/AIA) today (May 24) announced its acceptance of $80,000 investments to fund the Be Pro Be Proud” workforce initiative, the public-private partnership in early March to shrink the “skills gap” that exists between Arkansas’ growing labor pool and industry and economic development prospects.
The new investments, $50,000 from the Gene Haas Foundation and $30,000 from Tyson Foods Inc., will help the Arkansas State Chamber showcase career opportunities available within technical professions to Arkansas students, chamber officials said.
“We’re incredibly grateful to both the Gene Haas Foundation and Tyson Foods for helping us continue to educate students on the opportunities that lie within technical professions and encourage further career and technical education in Arkansas schools,” said State Chamber President and CEO Randy Zook. “It’s an honor to have our diligent research and subsequent workforce initiative be validated by such industry leaders.”
Launched on March 8, the “Be Pro Be Proud” unveiled a hi-tech 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 traveling unit has conducted several launch events across the state, visited multiple high schools and appeared at numerous industry events and festivals since its debut, chamber officials said.
The initiative’s website serves as a content hub for content hub for students, young professionals, parents, teachers and the general public to learn more and even find training and job opportunities. Employers can also use the site to 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.
The website has seen more than 12,000 page views since its launch. Social media channels have also helped to keep top-of-mind awareness about the need for technical professionals and provided relevant updates throughout the campaign.
“It is critical that we all become more serious about advocating for skilled trade professions and educating students about the rewarding career opportunities they offer,” said Michael Garner, general manager of the Haas Factory Outlet in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Chamber officials said investments provided by the private sector, such as the money from Gene Haas Foundation and Tyson Foods, are intended to fund technical programs that teach the skills needed for our economy to grow and expand.
Named after the President and founder of Haas Automation Inc., the Gene Haas Foundation is committed to promoting the importance of U.S. manufacturing and is aggressive in offering scholarships for manufacturing education, particularly CNC machinist training.
To date, “Be Pro Be Proud” has received more than $1 million in public and private investment, bringing the Chamber’s Foundation halfway towards its funding goal for this comprehensive initiative.
“We’re proud to award these funds to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Foundation,” said Jeffrey Wood, director of community and governmental relations at Tyson Foods. “Their ‘Be Pro Be Proud’ workforce initiative is truly reflective of our mission to advance the technical workforce by advocating for these rewarding career opportunities within Arkansas schools and communities.”
According to chamber officials, today’s technically-professional workforce is aging out and the next generation of new talent is not sufficient to fill the demand. Nationwide, there are an estimated 5.8 million job openings, with approximately 60,000 of these openings here in Arkansas. The majority of these are in high skilled technical fields, and this gap in the state’s employment can be directly attributed to a lack of knowledge, interest and preparation.