Be Pro Be Proud, an Arkansas workforce development initiative led by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, has continually grown over the past few years. Andrew Parker, the executive director of the initiative, has worked to create new ways to introduce trade school education to Arkansas youth.
The Draft Day Tour was first introduced in 2022, and because of its success has continued into its second year. The multi-day event spans across four Arkansas locations, including Northwest Arkansas, the Arkansa River Valley, Grand Prairie and Northeast Arkansas.
According to Parker, Draft Day consists of two things, interviews and a career fair. The interviews are specific to seniors in high school who are interested in pursuing a trade career after graduation. These interviews are not just regular job interviews, but are meant to match graduating seniors with career opportunities they could be interested in.
Draft Day will take place from March through the second week of April, with a projected outcome of 5,000 seniors participating in these events. In March, students will be prepared for the career-matching interview.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that our program is working. In almost seven years, we have heard from both educators and students that it’s impacting conversations they have with each other,” Parker said.
The effort taking place has pushed for a greater emphasis on trade careers, and Be Pro Be Proud’s model is now being implemented in other areas as a result. The organization now exists on a national level with four states currently active – Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina – and two more expected to join in 2023. According to Parker, Tennessee will soft launch this spring and New Mexico is expected to launch this fall.
“We’re so lucky to play such a small role in this movement,” Parker said. “The talent, volume of talent and educators understand the value of what we’re doing, and parents care.”
Parker explained that in Arkansas, federal statistics show that every freshman class has around 12 students that won’t graduate. The goal and mission of Be Pro Be Proud, is to introduce a roadmap that outlines how students can earn six-figure incomes that not only create additional value but also increase satisfaction.
“You paint a picture to a student from the classroom that shows the ability to lead a business of whatever size they want, and it’s not just about intelligence, but it’s also about grit. It changes everything,” Parker said.
For more information about Be Pro Be Proud or the Draft Day Tour, click here.
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