LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas (ASCC/AIA) recently announced the launch of its Be Pro Be Proud initiative to bring a new generation of pride, progress, and professionals to the state’s skilled workforce.

Today’s skilled professional workforce is aging, and the next generation of new talent is not sufficient to fill the demand. Nationwide, there are an estimated 5.6 million job openings. Approximately 60,000 of these openings exist in Arkansas. The majority of these are in highly skilled technical fields. This gap in the state’s employment can be directly attributed to a lack of knowledge, interest, and preparation. These jobs make up a vast majority of the manufacturing sector, which represents more than 90 percent of Arkansas’ exports and is a cornerstone to the state’s economy.

“I continue to be a huge advocate for training our state’s workforce so we can reduce the skilled trade job gap and better compete in the global marketplace,” said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “I encourage everyone to be a part of the Be Pro Be Proud movement. It shows we are serious about educating parents and young people about these career paths that are essential to our state’s economic growth.”

The initiative targets many key audiences, including high school and nontraditional students, current skilled professionals, legislators, parents, teachers, career coaches, and employers, to dispel the myths about skilled trade professions, showcase current skilled professionals’ true vocational pride, highlight the many career opportunities available within these trades, and provide necessary resources and training to those interested.

“The reality is that many of these professions today take place in technologically advanced facilities with the latest tools, and there are many opportunities for Arkansans with the right skills to have a successful career with high wages in a skilled trade,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “We must make sure our young people know of these opportunities and have access to the appropriate resources and training to succeed in a globally competitive environment. The Be Pro Be Proud initiative will help in this effort.”

Research conducted prior to the development of the campaign indicates that 82 percent of companies regularly have positions they are unable to fill with qualified workers. Furthermore, 44 percent of average entry-level salaries for these open positions start at, or exceed, $31,000.

The Be Pro Be Proud initiative is using a mobile unit to travel the state and visit companies, schools, and events to showcase skilled trade professions and broaden awareness of their impact on the state’s workforce. The Be Arkansas Pro mobile unit provides information about training resources, currently available positions and descriptions, skills needed, and how to start the process of starting a skilled professional career. For more information, visit

Publication date: 4/4/2016 

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