From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Business leaders have been telling us for several years that there is no job shortage for skilled workers.
The situation is exactly the opposite.
In fact, the demand for skilled labor is greater than ever because 23 percent of the people now in the workforce are at retirement age, or close to it.
In surveys of manufacturing companies, 82 percent report a moderate to serious shortage of skilled production workers.
I’m happy to report that the state Office of Skills Development is responding to the challenge.
It just awarded a grant of $1.4 million to add another traveling workshop. It’s actually a large bus, equipped with video screens and Internet connections. The technology is cutting edge, and includes virtual reality programs and interactive workshops.
The bus travels to schools around Arkansas to recruit students and offer job training opportunities.
It’s called Be Pro Be Proud. There is already one mobile workshop traveling all across the state, but if you want it to visit your local school the waiting list is so long, it can’t be scheduled for another three semesters.
One goal of the mobile workshop is to change people’s preconceptions about a career in a technical field.
Welders, plumbers, electricians, technicians in heating and air conditioning, heavy equipment operators, machinists and commercial truck drivers will tell you.
They make good incomes, and it takes a lot of brains and training to master the skills they need.
If you don’t think smart people are getting into vocational trades, try fixing your own air conditioner the next time the condenser goes bad.
There should be absolutely no stigma attached to pursuing a career in a technical field.
Maybe we put so much value on a university degree because so many of us remember the days when almost nobody went to college.
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is a strong supporter of the Be Pro Be Proud workshop. So are the state Department of Commerce and a long list of private industries.
The mobile workshop is not just any old 18-wheeler. If one of them visits your local school, stop by and take a look.
It’s an impressive piece of machinery, with simulators that show you just how complex it is to operate heavy equipment, and machinery on a production line.
It’s no wonder that more than 23,000 students have signed up for more information about careers in technology and other high demand occupations.
There are plenty of tremendous opportunities for young people entering the workforce, and they’re not all in academics.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.