Actor, entrepreneur John Ratzenberger to speak at NWA Workforce Summit

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 178 views 

Award-winning actor John Ratzenberger, best known for his role as Cliff Clavin on the 1980s NBC sitcom, “Cheers,” is now an advocate for teaching skills to U.S. workers.

He will be the afternoon keynote speaker at the second-annual Northwest Arkansas Workforce Summit, Nov. 7–8 at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale. 

The event brings together business leaders and government officials with educators from school districts throughout the region.

Ratzenberger will provide the keynote speech Monday, Nov. 7, in addition to a speech to high school students the next day, Tuesday, Nov. 8.

“Growing up, everyone we knew could make something, knew how to fix things,” Ratzenberger said in a press release from the actor. “My mother used to give us old radios and toasters with the cords cut off. She told us to take them apart.

“We are losing that, and we need to get it back. Kids today are not making things. Instead they are going to college to get degrees and can’t get a job,” Ratzenberger said. “There are plenty of jobs out there. We just need to teach kids the skills.”

From 2004 to 2008, Ratzenberger produced and starred in the Travel Channel series “Made in America,” which highlighted U.S.-made goods and workers, and he is in pre-production on a new TV series intended to show the shortage of skilled workers in the country, according to a press release from the Springdale Chamber of Commerce.

Ted Abernathy, managing partner at Economic Leadership LLC in Raleigh, N.C., will provide the Monday morning keynote address on workforce trends on the national and regional level.

“Today we live in a world of dynamic change,” Abernathy said. “With increasing competition for good jobs and a rising bar to be successful, the question is, what needs to be done to bridge the gap between employer expectations and current skills?

“The answer begins with understanding change and opportunities that arise for industry engagement in career and technical education,” he said.

Other speakers include representatives of area employers who work with schools to improve the job training process and Charisse Childers, director of Arkansas Department of Career Education.

Tickets are $49 and may be purchased by contacting the chamber at 479-872-2222.

Four hundred people attended the NWA Workforce Summit last year, said Bill Rogers, vice president of communications and special projects for the chamber.

New this year is a second day of events, devoted to students from Washington and Benton county high schools, on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Rogers said the chamber is expecting about 700 high school students to participate in events to include a tour of Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale and the Student Career Exploration Expo, where 40 employer vendor booths will be set up, so students can interact with them about career paths and opportunities.

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