Interactive mobile unit promotes workforce development

Q: I passed a large rig wrapped with “Be Pro Be Proud” on the interstate. Would you tell me about this?

A: You are inquiring about an interactive, outdoor mobile unit designed to showcase skilled trades to students through a presentation and simulators.

Some of the listening sessions during Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s time in office covered the plight of employers in finding skilled workers, recounted Cherokee Office of Economic Development President and CEO Misti Martin. Also expressed was the need for technical colleges to align their programs with employers’ requests.

“We did a drilled down version of that,” she said. “We were looking at it from a standpoint of feature of talent for how to man careers locally, and running our career and technical programs in the high schools, whichever pathway these students choose when they start high school.”

The initiative “Be Pro Be Proud” was launched by the Cherokee office in July 2020. The open-air mobile unit began visiting schools in October that year.

“The program was started in Arkansas and was built where other states could sign onto it ... with the vision to be a nationwide movement,” Martin said. “We are the second state to buy the license.”

Targeting students ages 13 through seniors in high school, the program aligns pathways of high growth and high demand skilled professions, such as health care, CAD/CAM drafters, robotics, welders and such.

“The secret sauce is that we take the message to the students with a state-of-the-art interactive mobile workshop,” said the CEO. “It is power packed with simulators to excite the students about learning a skill.

“We have everything from nerdy to dirty and have toured over 20,000 students since October 2020,” Martin added.

She is quick to say that they are not against a traditional college path but want kids and parents to know that there is another option.

“It’s just helping these kids find their pathway ... where something clicks for them,” she said. “We are the energizer and our partners are providing the training, like the technical college, private trade schools or the employers who do on-the-job training.”

Credit: con

Credit: con

Students who attend the presentation and play on the simulators are asked to fill out a survey: questions about career interests, plans after high school graduation, demographics, etc.

“We can pull up by county with specific insights by the students who have taken the survey. For example, Wellstar just came on as a big partner and one of the things they are really interested in is we can pull by county how many kids are interested in healthcare. So if they wanted to offer internships or jobs to these kids through us they can drop information to those kids,” Martin said.

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