Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday the approval of a $1.5 million grant for the construction of a second “Be Pro Mobile Workshop” unit. The funding and construction of the second unit will allow the workforce development program to better serve students and industry across the state of Arkansas, he said.
The Be Pro Mobile Workshop is a mobile educational unit of Be Pro Be Proud, a workforce development initiative led by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas (AIA). It connects students around the state to high-tech, high-paying careers. Through partnerships with state agencies, local industry and higher education entities, Be Pro Be Proud works to replenish the professional workforce in Arkansas that has been experiencing a drastic decline.
The announcement took place Monday afternoon during a press conference outside of the Capitol building with fellow workforce advocates, Director of the Arkansas Office of Skills Development Cody Waits; Representatives French Hill and Bruce Cozart; Senator Jane English; Dr. Charisse Childers; and Be Pro Be Proud Staff and Board of Directors, also in attendance.
“Years ago, when I first became governor, this became an initiative led by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas General Contractors, the Arkansas Trucking Association, our industry partners, to make the case that we needed to market to young people options they could have in their future, to understand their options in industry to make a good living,” said Hutchinson. “That’s the message of Be Pro Be Proud. Today, I am proud to announce that a second unit will be put on the road to benefit the young people of Arkansas.”
The grant approval bolsters Be Pro Be Proud’s efforts to lead in the workforce development space. The Be Pro Mobile Workshop was conceptualized as a unit that utilizes virtual reality simulations to place high school and middle school students into the life of a skilled professional.
The success of Be Pro Be Proud has created a two year waitlist of 135 schools currently on a waiting list for their own Be Pro Be Proud tour stop.
“That means that students who want to have that exposure, don’t have the opportunity,” Hutchinson added. “So with that waiting list, we need to have a second mobile unit. I just went into this unit today. The young people see the opportunities there, what they could make, and it makes a difference with them.”
So far, the mobile workshop concept has impacted over 116,000 students across 396 cities and 679 tour stops throughout the state and has led to more than 23,000 students joining the movement to receive information on technical career possibilities.