Be Pro Be Proud NC makes stop at College of The Albemarle’s Dare campus
Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2023
“Hey do you want to do something real quick?” Action Plumbing founder and owner John Osborn asked Jose Aldar Preslava outside the Be Pro Be Proud exhibition trailer on Tuesday, April 25, 2023.
“Do you want to run a power tool?”
It was a simple question, but in five minutes Osborn had taught Preslava how to measure out a diameter, select the right bit, and drill a hole into a 2×4 using a power drill.
Bringing hands-on learning to young men and women, whether actual or virtual, is what the Be Pro Be Proud movement is all about.
The Be Pro Be Proud NC trailer came to College of The Albemarle Dare campus Monday, April 24 and Tuesday, April 25 to offer exposure to skilled trades to hundreds of middle school and high school students.
Be Pro Be Proud was started in Arkansas in 2016 with the goal of bringing “a new generation of pride, progress and professionals” to the skilled workforce, which is aging out and leaving a huge demand.
The next generation of new talent is currently not sufficient to fill an estimated 5.6 million job openings, the majority in the skilled and technical fields.
Expanding to Georgia, Tennessee, New Mexico, Texas and the Carolinas, the Be Pro Be Proud initiative has partnered with the Department of Labor and Spevco (Special Events Vehicles Company) to bring hands-on learning through mobile exhibition trailers. Each trailer is equipped with state-specific job need stations where young people can gather information and have on-the-job experiences through virtual reality games and stations.
North Carolina currently has two tractor trailers, and the demand is skyrocketing, according to CDL certified husband-wife team Josh and Trish Seaford, who drive a trailer to each location, give presentations and work with student ambassadors to teach others how to use the interactive stations.
They have 127 tour stops, averaging about three hundred students per stop. In a short presentation, the Seafords explain the job needs in North Carolina and the wage opportunities for these positions. The top 15 careers are highlighted on the beprobeproudnc.org website which include automation and robotics, CAD/CAM drafter, CNC operator, commercial truck driver, computer programmer, construction, diesel technician, electrician, heavy equipment operator, HVACR technician, industrial maintenance, lineworker, machinist, plumber and welder.
“We need these trades filled,” said Josh Seaford. “The people in these fields are getting ready to retire and it’s driving wages through the roof.”
The website offers information about much needed careers and where to find training and employers, but also includes median earning potential, plus what the top 10 percent of people earn in those professions.
“The most important thing is to find something that you enjoy. That’s going to get you the farthest,” he said.
The VR games and simulations give students an opportunity to see what it’s like to climb a tower as an electrician, or to drive an 18-wheeler, or to test their aptitude as a welder.
And the student reaction? According to the Seafords, it’s total engagement.
“They’ll come in on their phones, but they never leave on their phones,” said Josh Seaford. “If you get them to try one thing, they’ll be mad if they don’t get to try two.”
Manteo High School sophomore Kalvin Tillett said he’s considering a career as a utility lineman. “This has helped me choose what I want to do,” he said after exploring possible positions like construction and welding.
Greg Hathaway, carpentry teacher at Manteo High School, said he’s never seen anything like it. “I’ve had several students express interest in a lot of these careers. [The exhibition] connects with them on their level because it’s hands on and gives them the opportunity to experiment with those careers. I think it’s incredible.”
COA partnered with Be Pro Be Proud to host the event. Dean of COA Dare Tim Sweeney said these skilled and technical positions are piquing the interest of students because they offer good pay and give men and women an opportunity to work with their hands and find a job they love.
“Over the last two days, I’ve had lots of students come up to me [after the Be Pro Be Proud exhibition] and say they want to come to COA,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said he thinks the tide is changing as more and more students are looking into technical positions. The biggest hurdle for COA is not finding students to attend the classes, but finding people to teach them.
“If we can get instructors, we can fill the classes,” he said.
The college is successful in reaching high school students through dual enrollment programs, but they are currently working on pulling in adult learners. COA just launched a new online information site (betterskillsbetterjobs.com/college-of-the-albemarle/) to connect those in their 20s, 30s and beyond with better careers.
Regardless of one’s age, the Be Pro Be Proud trailer is traveling the state to encourage more men and women to pursue a career in some of the most critical and in-demand positions in the country. Interest persons are encouraged to “join the movement” at join.nc.beprobeproud.org.
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