For more than a year now, Beaver Water District, Central Arkansas Water, and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce have been working on a project together to incorporate the careers of the water industry into the Be Pro Be Proud initiative. The many hours of planning, editing, and conference calls saw the project come to fruition this March as the first Be Pro Be Proud Draft Day for 2023 was conducted at Rogers High School.
Be Pro Be Proud (BPBP) is an initiative led by the Associated Industries of Arkansas Foundation to help bring about a new generation of pride, progress, and professionals to America’s skilled workforce. The program uses two mobile workshops that consist of semi-trucks featuring simulators and virtual reality stations that introduce students to careers in areas many have not considered as a career path. Skilled workers have seen a sharp decline as most high school students looking to the future think a traditional four-year college experience is the only option. The Be Pro Be Proud initiative hopes to change that perception through promotion of professions and the companies within Arkansas that have a high demand for skilled workers.
Beaver Water District and Central Arkansas Water have seen a significant number of water operators, industrial maintenance professionals, electricians, and water distribution technicians retire in recent years. Attracting qualified individuals has become increasingly difficult and time-consuming. When BPBP announced that it would be building a second mobile workshop to help meet the demand in Arkansas, the two largest drinking water authorities in the state joined forces to support the effort. The new truck includes a virtual reality experience where a water industry worker must locate a leak and stop the flow of water, then cut, replace, and seal a pipe to get the drinking water flowing again. The timed virtual experience allows participants to receive a passing or failing score and includes a follow up description on potential earnings for careers in the water industry.
The Draft Day at Rogers High School had 292 seniors participate in job interviews and an estimated 1,700 others from Rogers and Springdale School Districts participate in the job expo. This was the first time the virtual reality experience for the drinking water industry was included on the mobile workshop.
The Draft Day experience is highlighted by the interviews and job offers that occurred during the event. Korenda Allen, Human Resource Director at Beaver Water District, gave pointers on interview skills, helped conduct mock interviews, and worked with students to build a better resume. Other individuals with Beaver Water District participated in the event by helping check students in/out or running the virtual reality experience at the district’s booth.
NWA Draft Day would not have happened without the help of many statewide and local partners. Steve Cox, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce said “Draft Day NWA was a vital step in educating and enhancing the workforce of today and tomorrow. Career exposure is consistently a top reason students enter career paths. Having participants showcasing all aspects of our community from employment opportunities to educating them on the impact our water source has on the region creates a lasting impact. Discussions have already begun on Draft Day NWA 2024, and we plan to only increase the success of this year.” Beaver Water District and Central Arkansas Water look forward to seeing the impact the partnership has on the increased awareness of careers in the water industry for all utilities in Arkansas.
Special ‘Thank You’ to Springdale School District for including Beaver Water District staff in their video on Draft Day.