A sampling of high-paying skilled jobs that don’t require a four-year degree visited Heber Springs High School last week. The “Be Pro Be Proud” trailer is equipped with technology that gives students the chance to safely experience simulations of working in those skilled careers.

Like the commercial tractor trailer driving simulator.

“The semi-truck simulator was definitely harder than I thought. In a car I can apply the brake and know that my car will stop soon, with the truck it was a longer distance and time to come to a full stop. I never realized how much physical work goes into driving a semi,” said Ellie Riddle, a senior.

Superintendent Dr. Andy Ashley even tried a few of the simulators, like the heavy equipment operator. Another popular stop in the trailer was the lineman simulator.

“Loved the lineman simulator because not only did it feel real but it also put you into a real life situation,” said Ty Southerland, a tenth-grader.

Congressman John Boozeman has written in the past about the importance of career and technical schools in preparing students for careers in trades. It’s an important step in fostering long term economic growth because almost a quarter of the state’s skilled professionals are at or near retirement age.

“Arkansas’s employers need talented workers who are prepared to fill the surge of expected vacancies, as well as those to step into positions created by the many new employers choosing to call the Natural State home,” Boozman wrote in one of his columns, which appears in newspapers across Arkansas. The program’s outreach will “help young Arkansans realize that you don’t need an undergraduate degree to get ahead in life.”

The Be Pro Be Proud Mobile Workshop, a 78-foot semi-truck and trailer that showcases numerous technical professions through augmented reality simulators. It allows students the opportunity to gauge their interest, skills, and aptitude for various professional careers such as: computer-aided drafting (CAD/CAM), electricity lineman, computer programming, heavy equipment operator, fiber optic repair, welding, commercial truck driving, HVAC repair, electrician, plumbing, and diesel mechanic repair.

“Be Pro Be Proud” is a workforce development initiative working out of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas (AIA) that 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” is working to replenish the professional workforce that has been experiencing a drastic decline.

Since 2016, “Be Pro Be Proud” has hosted more than 100,000 visitors on the Mobile Workshop, across 308 cities and 586 tour stops, letting the communities they visit see the opportunities for students to have high-tech, high-wage careers without going into debt.

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