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BENTONVILLE -- While speaking at the 2022 national Be Pro Be Proud conference Wednesday morning Sen. John Boozman said people who can't earn a living or feed their families will care little about international troubles such as the war in Ukraine or domestic issues such as political turmoil.

"If you don't have a job and you don't have a situation where you can take care of your family and make a living wage, everything else is unimportant," he said.

Boozman's morning audience, participants in the Be Pro Be Proud workforce development program, are focused on building a skilled workforce through job training and post secondary education to provide for better careers and lives.

The organization is known for its mobile labs, customized, interactive trailers loaded with information and skills challenges. The program began in 2016 in Arkansas through a partnership between the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas and is currently operating through licensed efforts in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The event was attended by about 60 business and workforce leaders from around the country as well as legislators, including U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark. and U.S. Rep Virginia Fox of North Carolina, along with Randy Zook, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

Andrew Parker, executive director of Be Pro Be Proud, said in an interview during the conference his organization's focus is to give students a clear idea of what job opportunities are out there for them and to help them pursue those opportunities as soon as possible.

"If you can understand what an opportunity looks like ... and what income potential this career path can provide, and where can it lead them, they're a lot more inclined to consider it," he said.

Boozman, speaking to the group at the Louise Thaden School in Bentonville during its two day conference, said during his travels around Arkansas he's constantly told the thing businesses need more than anything is access to a reliable source of trained and capable workers. He praised the group for reaching out to young people, meeting them where they are to tell them about job opportunities around the state and nation and to encourage and help them obtain useful and marketable skills.

He said as a legislator he's willing to do all he can to help but he stressed the true solution to filling open jobs with much needed workers is organizations like Be Pro Be Proud.

"Don't wait for Washington to solve the problem," Boozman said of the demands for a modern, skilled workforce. "It will come from folks like those in this room."