Early Exposure to Skilled Trades
Right now, America 's workforce is facing a challenge. More than 26 percent of current skilled professionals are at or near retirement age; however, our country's workforce isn't prepared to fill the positions our retiring workers are creating. And when it comes to making Cobb County an attractive place to do business, site selectors across the nation have found that the availability of skilled workers has become the top priority of businesses looking to relocate or expand into a new community-outranking incentives and all other economic factors. An educational infrastructure that is prepared to adapt to the changing needs of industry can be a powerful force in the recruitment, growth, and retention of local businesses. With a thriving economy largely built and supported by Cobb's uniquely qualified workforce- and blue-chip employers calling for more applications by the day- Cobb County has taken the next step toward addressing ever-changing workforce needs. Cobb has focused efforts on expanding its offerings to meet the demand of five industry sectors critical to the viability of Cobb's workforce: advanced manufacturing; construction and skilled trades; healthcare and bioscience; logistics and supply chain; and technology and communications. As a boots-on-the-ground, workforce-inspiring machine, Be Pro Be Proud Georgia is bridging the skills gap and bringing a new generation of pride, progress, and professionals to the skilled workforce.
Perhaps you've passed the Be Pro Be Proud truck and trailer on the highway or have seen them at a school in or around Cobb County. This mobile outdoor unit wrapped in bright red lettering and packed with state-of-the-art simulators catches one's eye quickly. The initiative's gamified stations allow students to see what it's like to get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, assemble a PVC pipe, analyze human anatomy through augmented reality, bind metal through a virtual welding experience, explore a career in linework behind the lens of an Oculus VR headset, discover robotics and automation, and test hand-eye coordination through an engaging skills challenge. For the schools and students they visit across Georgia, Be Pro Be Proud provides an early look into critical careers, highlighting these 15 skilled professions: automation and robotics, CAD/CAM drafters, CNC operators, commercial truck drivers, computer programmers, construction workers, diesel technicians, electricians, healthcare/medical technicians, HVACR technicians, line workers, machinists, plumbers, web developers, and welders.
"More people should get to experience the things we got to do so they could have opportunities to know what they are passionate about," said Jenny L., a student at Cobb Innovation and Technology Academy. "During the time I had at the Be Pro Be Proud truck, I felt that everything there was fun and hand s-on instead of just sitting and listening to some people speak for 90 minutes."
Sharing hands-on opportunities in skilled trades with students early in their education is something BPBP leadership takes seriously. "From an early age, children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Exposing students to opportunities in the skilled professions early in their education is critical to helping them make informed decisions about their career pathway should they choose not to pursue a traditional college degree," said Misti Martin, president and CEO of Be Pro Be Proud Georgia. "Many young people have the perception that skilled trades jobs are 'dirty jobs.' After touring the Be Pro Be Proud mobile workshop, perceptions change when students learn that they have tons of options to make more money than they expected without spending another four years at a university."
And students are interested. In November of 2021, not much more than a year after it launched, Be Pro Be Proud exceeded its milestone of 5,000 students signing up to receive information from employers and training providers related to their skill sets. By March of 2022, they met another milestone: 20,000 students reached about jobs in skilled trades. As of October 2022, there have been 176 tour stops, 28,000-plus students impacted, and more than 16,000 have " Joined the Movement" by reaching out to BPBP for further information and guidance. And they're looking for more. "Exposure is the number one thing that will help us overcome that hurdle," said tour manager Reggie LaGrone. "Students can be unmotivated or uninterested in the information that we're presenting because parents may have a different expectation as to what they want their child to do. Other students may feel that the skilled trades are not glamorous enough - they think all the professions in the industry mean coming home with dirty boots and greasy hands because that's all that they've been exposed to before we tell them about other jobs that they haven't considered."