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It’s no secret that the United States is facing a labor shortage. The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measured employment in July, shows the United States added 548,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%. Nevertheless, the hiring side of the labor market continues to have unmet needs. Over the past year, many employers have complained about labor shortages, especially those working in the skilled trades.

In fact, more than 82% of manufacturers report a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers, according to the National Manufacturers Association, and industry employers are struggling to hire and retain entry-level and skilled workers.

To meet this growing labor demand, organizations like Be Pro Be Proud are on a mission to connect people to jobs as quickly as possible. The Arkansas-based nonprofit is “leading the movement to bring a new generation of pride, progress, and professionalism to America’s skilled workforce.”

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas launched the organization in 2016 to attract college students and young adults to technical careers through what-if experiences and then connect them to post-secondary training opportunities that prepare them for high-demand, high-paying technical careers. Over time, the approach began to gain traction. Using a state and regional partnership model, Be Pro Be Proud has since expanded its presence in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Other states across the country are lining up to learn more. Since their founding and subsequent expansion, they have reached over 175,000 people with their education and employment services.

Executive Director Andrew Parker says part of the organization’s success has been raising awareness of technical career opportunities in four industry sectors: construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities.

“Because the problem is multi-faceted, the solution must be too. Students know almost nothing about technical careers in these sectors. Parents perceive them as low-paying, less than dirty and back-breaking jobs, only done by those who “have no college equipment”. We need to present the facts about these careers and eliminate the stigma that surrounds them all. Although this is a big task, it is doable because technical careers are not low-wage, middle-skilled jobs. These are professional precision jobs,” he said. “The requirements, responsibilities, technology and skills required are on par with traditional professional occupations. And in many cases, the earning and advancement potential meets or exceeds their counterparts with a bachelor’s degree. These careers should be seen by all as first choice, not last resort.

More than 25 companies invested in and partnered with Be Pro Be Proud at the start of the initiative, giving Parker the opportunity to launch a website and design a “mobile workshop” in a 44-foot truck-drawn trailer Freightliner offered by Truck Centers of Arkansas. Today, the Be Pro Mobile Workshop 2.0 is three times larger than its predecessor and serves as a hub for organization programming, touring colleges, high schools, two-year colleges, community events, career and company fairs, and allowing interactive exposure to these careers. Due to overwhelming demand, Parker and his team are working with their manufacturer to bring a second version 2.0 to Arkansas. Each mobile workshop can be customized to teach the public up to 16 professions, including:

  • Carpentry
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) operator
  • Diesel technology
  • Electrician
  • heavy equipment operator
  • HVAC technician
  • locomotive engineer
  • overhead lineman
  • Plumbing
  • Robotics
  • Truck’s driver
  • Welder

“What you end up seeing is each state customizing the mobile shop(s) to reflect the industries and businesses most relevant to their states and constituents,” Parker said.

Once participants have engaged in the mobile workshop, they can register to learn more and opt in to social media, SMS and email campaigns which are part of the Be Pro Be recruitment processes. Proud. Association, corporate and educational partners also benefit from exclusive access to the recruitment database to be used within the framework of their own recruitment activities.

Tim Minton, executive vice president of the North Carolina Home Builders Association, credits Be Pro Be Proud with helping to spur interest in the skilled trades sector.

“Work is the number one issue in our industry right now, and Be Pro Be Proud is a significant way for us to move the needle in the right direction,” he said.

With these kinds of creative solutions, it’s no surprise that the organization has had significant successes. About 84% of educators who have interacted with Be Pro Be Proud say it has helped their students understand training and career opportunities and is now part of the daily conversation in their classrooms and school hallways. More than 70% of students have considered one of the promoted occupations as a potential training or career path and post-secondary schools are reporting increased enrollment in relevant programs. Additionally, according to teachers, an increasing number of their at-risk students have found a purpose that has had a positive impact on their academic performance.

Be Pro Be Proud is building the workforce of tomorrow and with it, the next generation of wealth makers.

For more information, visit or contact Erica Haines.