LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Be Pro Be Proud is an initiative that was started by the State Chamber of Commerce partnering with companies to show off trade jobs. 

The Be Pro Be Proud trade truck goes to high schools across the state showing students what is involved with trade jobs.

The Trade Truck has been so popular that it currently has a three-semester waiting list in Arkansas.  Many other states have also started similar programs using Arkansas as a model. 

State Chamber President and CEO Randy Zook said trades are still in high demand in Arkansas and the Be Pro Be Proud initiative has boosted the labor pool of those jobs.

“More and more companies are beginning to look to Be Pro Be Proud to help respond to short and long-term recruitment and hiring needs,” Zook said.

North Little Rock Schools Academic Coach Patrick Bruce said trade jobs now are not the way the jobs many think they used to be.

“Where people are tech-savvy, they’re computer savvy.  So it’s more interactive for students and in some cases, it almost feels like a video game,” Bruce said.

Bruce said there is a negative stigma attached to trade jobs still.  Many students do not understand what all is involved with those jobs until the Be Pro Be Proud trade truck visits their school.

Many apprenticeships are “earn while you learn” and Bruce said many students do not realize that.  It gives students an alternative to the four-year college route.

“That’s a very big difference in paying 30, 60, $100,000 for a degree in an area that may not really be in demand in 5 years,” Bruce explained.

Bruce and other officials say the Be Pro Be Proud truck has helped to lift the negative stigma attached to trade jobs. 

“Working with your hands is nothing to be ashamed of,” Bruce said.

Many students believe if they do not go to a four-year college there is no hope of making a good living.  Bruce said it also helps kids who are more at-risk to stay in school because seeing the truck renews the hope of being able to do something with their lives even without a traditional four-year degree.

“It’s no longer a sentence of saying ‘ hey I have to go to college, if I don’t go to college, I can’t earn, I can’t make a living, I can’t provide for my family.  This shows the exact opposite of that,” Bruce said.

Bruce explained there will always be a need for people to build things and there will always be a need for things to be fixed.  No matter how high-tech things are, many common things still have moving parts within them. 

In order for Arkansas to keep up with the economy of today, it must have a workforce capable of keeping up with it also.

“You cannot maintain a 21st-century economy with 20th-century skills,” Bruce proclaimed. 

Be Pro Be Proud said the new truck will be ready by the Fall of 2022.