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Statewide Workforce Initiative Aims To Fill Skilled Professional Jobs

FORT SMITH (KFSM) — ‘Be Pro, Be Proud’ is a statewide effort to acquaint high school students with career opportunities available to them. It’s part of a ...

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- ‘Be Pro, Be Proud’ is a statewide effort to acquaint high school students with career opportunities available to them. It’s part of a campaign launched by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the State Capitol Tuesday (March 22).

“This is all about economic development, this is all about preparing students for real jobs in the real world. It`s about connecting also with HS Students and helping them blur that line between HS and college,” University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Chancellor Paul Beran said.

Randy Zook, the president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, and his group brought a mobile workshop to the UAFS campus, which helps showcase various career options.

“Welding, CAD/CAM, CNC machine work, diesel technicians, HVAC technicians, commercial truck drivers, healthcare fields, etc.,” Zook said.

He said the key is understanding the scope and scale of the opportunities that are out there.

“We`ve got companies that are unable to hire as many as they need because we have not equipped enough people with the skills to do the work,” Zook said.

For instance, the 188th Wing in Fort Smith currently has 98 openings for enlisted members.

“Companies are begging for people,” Zook said. “People are looking for jobs. We have to get this skills gap bridged to get people ready for the work that`s available right now.”

“We just have to make sure that the kids know, the students know there`s an opportunity beyond high school,” Tim Allen, president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said. “If you`re college bound, that`s a fantastic path. If you`re not college bound, there`s opportunity to make a very good living.”

Allen said the ‘Be Pro, Be Proud group will be back in the River Valley again in October for manufacturing week.