“The ability to make things is fundamental to the ability to innovate things over the long term.”

– Willy Smith, Harvard Business School and co-author of
Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance

Manufacturers in the U.S. are the most productive in the world. But a retiring Baby Boomer generation and misconceptions about skilled trades professions are leaving a significant number of high-paying jobs unfilled across the U.S., tens of thousands of those jobs here in Arkansas.

There is, however, a movement gaining rapid momentum. Be Pro Be Proud, a new initiative targeted to high school-aged students and their influencers, is leading the movement to foster the next generation of pride, progress, and professionals for Arkansas’s skilled workforce.

In collaboration with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Stone Ward set out to help accomplish the monumental task of overcoming the skills gap in Arkansas, through a three-pronged approach: Change Perceptions, Drive Engagement, and Encourage Action.

Change Perceptions

When you think of skilled professions, the first thought that probably comes to mind is a dirty factory of monotonous, manual labor. At least that’s what we heard when we interviewed students and parents all across the State. However, with cutting-edge technology and super-automated processes, today’s factories couldn’t be further from this stereotype. Taking a peek behind the curtain of today’s manufacturing operations reveals a clean, sophisticated network of highly-skilled operators working in concert with heavy machinery, computers, and robots.

Another misconception we encountered dealt with pay. Once thought to be low-wage and unstable, skilled professions actually pay quite well, offering a sustainable career with a quick return on investment. In fact, many of today’s skilled professions include salaries and benefits well above the national average, with education and training investments of only six months to two years, in most cases.

Arkansas Be Pro Be Proud Professions

Drive Engagement

The most successful brands and campaigns know that today’s audiences, particularly Millennials and Gen-Z, have an expectation for brands to meet them where they are with very little disruption or required effort. Knowing this, the creative platform and media strategy for Be Pro Be Proud were carefully crafted to drive engagement from both a literal and figurative standpoint.

Arkansas Be Pro Be Proud Mobile Workshop

Touring across Arkansas to meet students where they are, the Be Pro Be Proud mobile workshop is an innovative, hands-on experience that allows students to learn about skilled professions in a modern, gaming-type environment. State-of-the-art exhibits simulate welding, pipefitting, CNC operating, and several other skilled professions. To take a virtual tour of the mobile workshop, click here.

Arkansas Be Pro Be Proud Mobile Unit

Encourage Action

In addition to on-site experiences, students are also encouraged to engage with the initiative online. One of the frustrations we kept hearing from students and parents was that there was no one place to find training and jobs for skilled professions – you had to piece-meal information together. The website, BeProBeProud.org, provides a centralized hub of training and job opportunities available throughout the State – a database that will continue to grow as more employers and educators learn about the initiative.

Arkansas Be Pro Be Proud Training

Join the Movement

Today’s young people want to be successful and make a difference, but society has told them that their only path to success is by way of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or the next Silicon Valley entrepreneur. By building awareness of the positive attributes of skilled trades and educating prospective skilled professionals and their influencers about the range of training and career opportunities available, Be Pro Be Proud hopes to inspire today’s youth to take a different path to success.

Join the movement to Be Pro Be Proud and help us recruit and train the next generation of skilled trades professionals.