A trailer where students could virtually learn to weld, run a train or work on a power pole stopped at two local high schools this week.
Be Pro Be Proud, an initiative to improve workforce education in Arkansas and four other states, featured a mobile venue featuring several interactive professional job exhibits at White Hall High School on Monday and Tuesday and Friendship Aspire Academy Southeast Campus Wednesday.
“The ultimate goal is to educate and open the minds of students and teachers who haven’t been able to see what’s going on,” said tour director Montrell Thornton. “A lot of people already have a path to where they would go. We’re not here to take it away. We’re here to add to it.”
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas launched the Be Pro Be Proud initiative in 2016. At the time, there were concerns that the skilled workforce would continue to age and that there are not enough new hires to meet demand.
Inside the trailer is a virtual engine where learners can sit and experience how to operate a train, a 3D printer-like CNC router, and a simulation commercial diesel vehicle, among other exhibits.
“All we do is education,” Thornton said. “We are here to educate teachers as well as students.”
According to a timeline of the initiative, Be Pro Be Proud targets high school and non-traditional students, skilled professionals, career coaches and others to bust myths about skilled occupations and highlight the many career opportunities that offer trades.
Be Pro Be Proud is also adopted in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
“The response to everything we do is very important to children,” Thornton said. “When kids get a chance to hear the message and come out, it’s like watching them play a video game. But instead of watching a video game, they’re going to have a real experience with a major sponsor and try some one of those simulators that we offer, what it does is that when they leave the mobile workshop, they can start the conversation with their teacher and really learn all that is there for the future.
The teaser trailer will return to Southeast Arkansas October 19-20 at Stuttgart High School, October 31 at the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology in Crossett, November 1-2 at Crossett High School, Nov. 3 and 4 at Hamburg High School, and Nov. 14 and 15 at Southeast Arkansas College in Pine Bluff.