Statistics show that out of the 16 area high schools there are 1,200 graduates a year. Forty percent of those students go immediately into the workforce.

“That means 480 students a year do not have a plan. We’ve got to capture them before their senior year to share the incredible opportunities available to them before they graduate,” Craig Campbell, president Economic Development Corporation said at the WIN (Workforce Initiative Network) Summit II on June 10.

Campbell shared how Governor Asa Hutchinson began the initiative in 2016 to pair economic development with manufacturing to train students to fill the job shortages from a workforce that was at retirement age and to train young people in the new technology needs of modern manufacturing.

It’s been said many times, “Manufacturing isn’t the same as it was a few years ago.”

The Boone County Economic Development Corporation has partnered with local manufacturers to duplicate a successful program from Springdale. WIN was born and a partnership began between educators and manufacturers.

This summer, the second WIN Summit hosted a conference virtually and area Career Technical Education teachers, principals and superintendents and students attended the meeting. Area manufacturers took the group on virtual tours of their facilities and planted seeds of success in the minds of students.

Campbell continues to preach, “These 450 students going into the workforce need more than a minimum wage job. They need a living wage to support their future families and contribute in a meaningful way to this community.”

Students learned there are paid internships at some corporations even before they complete high school.

With the assistance of the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce and Dave Morton and Equity Bank, a WIN magazine was produced last year and placed into the hands of each highschool student in the 16 school area. The magazine shows the requirements needed to work with a company, the salary schedule and career opportunities. Students can scan a QR code for each business that takes them directly to an online application.

A second printing will begin shortly and Campbell said some additional industries have been added. Visit https://online.fliphtml5.com/jivhc/oqay/#p=1 to see an online version of the magazine.

When Craig Campbell reported to the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce a recap of the WIN II Summit, he said, “Dr. Angela Kremers, CTE program, Dept. of Education, said we have 7,645 students across the state in Career Technical Education. In our four county, 16 school area we only have 200 students involved. She also said we have 2,349 jobs available in the state.”

Campbell said he’s grateful for those 200 students but anxious to get the word out about the great jobs available for students who do not want to attend college at this time.

Dr. Randy Esters, North Arkansas College president said, “We’ve got to make sure every kid in Arkansas has a chance to at least consider intelligently from a well informed perspective on the full range of opportunities as they step out into the world.”

North Arkansas College has invested in some new career pathways for the fall semester.

Cybersecurity, Paramedic to RN and Turf Management are some of the new opportunities. Esters stressed to the manufacturers on the call, “We never say no to customized training requests.”

Nell Bonds, Northark technical programs and outreach said, “Northark Technical Center is designed to serve our area high schools. We have advanced manufacturing, automotive service technology, collision repair technology, construction technology, medical professions education and welding technology.”

Emilee Tucker from Ozarks Unlimited Resources (O.U.R. Cooperative) works with all area schools to coordinate efforts between manufacturing, highschools and North Arkansas College.

“By the effort of the Workforce Initiative Network we will have great benefits for students in our area, as well as those cooperating entities, businesses and industry,” Jeff Cantrell said. As of July 1, Cantrell will be the executive director of the O.U.R. Cooperative.

Dr. Angela Kremers, executive director CTE program, Arkansas Department of Education, “The need is there and the trend is continuing to rise. Since last year the number of students going into CTE and manufacturing is up. I’m very happy with the progress. The area schools are very blessed to work with Emilee Tucker from the Cooperative. She’s very talented,” Kremers said.

“There are 2,349 jobs available in manufacturing and 29 different certifications students can earn while taking the program, even during high school,” Kremers said.

“The need is there. The trend will continue to rise. There is a gap of need and job openings. The need is high and the gap is wide,” Kremers said. “Last year we had about 6% of students in CTE classes. Now we have about 18% in CTE enrollment and 3% in the manufacturing cluster. Part of that is the need of awareness. We need as many people as possible to help us share the opportunities that students have for great paying jobs.”

A teacher from Marshall High School, Joy Bigham said, “Thank you to everyone who made this happen. I was able to participate even though I was out of state. I am looking forward to getting back to school soon and can't wait to get back to work serving our students in Searcy County! Thank you again for all your hard work. The magazines are GREAT! I would be happy to share how I used them last year in my JAG Class.”

Another teacher said, “Thank you to those involved in this presentation. I teach Senior English. You have given me ammo to grab the attention of those who declare, ‘I do not want to go to college.’ I loved hearing all the keywords of these presenters. The words that will appeal to those ready to hit the workforce upon graduation: skill set, certification, leadership, work ethic, collaboration, involvement …”

More than 90 people participated in the call and was hosted by the Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce and the O.U.R. Cooperative. For anyone interested in viewing the Zoom recording of the program or seeing the industry tours, the WIN Summit II is available online. Just contact Emilee Tucker at etucker@oursc.k12.ar.us or call (870) 302.3093.

FedEX Freight

FedEx Freight staff members, Neil Both, vp transportation and Joe Baldwin, HR, senior talent acquisitions, spoke to the students on the call about the opportunities locally and in North America for students.

Both said, “I’ve been fortunate to work with the company for more than 30 years. It’s a fast paced environment. It’s trucking and transportation but very technology orientated. There are a lot of opportunities from driving a truck, to handling freight, to IT and HR and many other fields within FedEx Freight and the FedEx Corporation. There are a lot of entry level positions. That's where I started and it has provided me with tremendous opportunities. Anyone who wants to learn, grow and have an opportunity for advancement — it’s a great corporation to work for.”

Baldwin added, “As WIN participants, and one of the largest employers in Harrison. There are various corporations of companies operating under the FedEx umbrella. FedEx Corporation has 400,000 employees. There are 4,500 FedEx Freight employees. The bonus for Boone County, is it grew out of a home town company and now we have the headquarters of FedEx Freight right here. We are the largest LTL carrier in the country.”

“FedEx Freight has 370 service centers in Canada, Mexico. It’s driving trucks from Point A to point B and driving those trucks back fully loaded. That takes a lot of drivers, diesel mechanics, and office personnel. Opportunities with the general office in Harrison are phenomenal. If you want to go to college, great. If you want to consider a career path that doesn’t require a college education, the transportation industry can provid a great livelihood and benefits career.”

“Drivers and diesel mechanics are some of our highest paid employees. These are living wages to have families on and lifetime careers,” Baldwin said. “One half of our leadership in operations at one time were freight handlers within our company. They started on the front lines at an entry level position. You’re going to be more successful if you start at the ground level and move your way up.”

WestRock

The WestRock plant in Harrison is a folding carton division. Jimmy Luyet, general manager said, “We have some great opportunities locally, but we are a worldwide company with huge opportunities at 375 locations and 50,000 employees world wide.”

The Harrison plant was originally founded in 1969. The 135 square foot facility has heat, air and good lighting with 225 employees. “It’s a great work environment. We do some pretty technical stuff. We are the specialty location for WestRock. We make the boxes you have mac and cheese from, butter, cream cheese boxes, and we are the largest provider of ammunition packing in the US.”

“Sixty percent of our packaging is associated with food. That’s the great thing about making food cartons. We get busier in times of recession,” Luyet said. “The Harrison plant is on track for making $84 million in sales this year. The company has invested $12 million in the local facility during the past three years.”

During the video the participants saw, the plant was making Krispy Kreme donut boxes with a cellophane top that will eventually showcase the donuts inside. “We are an SQF (Safe Quality Food) level 3 certified facility. So everything stays very clean.”

Lew Thompson & Son Trucking

HR manager Chastity Reeves for Lew Thompson & Son Trucking said, “We have a big demand for truck drivers but also diesel mechanics. Our business is super techy and becoming more technology driven every day. The home office is in Huntsville with additional locations in Harrison, Batesville, Carthage. We have 235 employees and 200 of those are drivers and support staff.”

Wabash Wood Products

Wabash Wood Products is a division of Wabash National. The Harrison location began in 1968 as Cloud Corporation when they began manufacturing floors for semi trailers. Wabash National purchased the plant in 1998.

Site manager, Jason Patience started with Cloud Corporation right out of high school as an hourly employee. “There really are no limitations to employees right out of high school. I worked in various positions and kept working my way up. I eventually went back to school as an adult and became the safety and quality manager and lumber buyer. My career path is a great success story for me and this great company,” he said.

The Harrison location employs 300 people on 50 acres. The publicly traded company has total annual sales of $2 billion a year and makes 62,000 trailers per year with 7,000 associates worldwide. With 17 manufacturing locations across the world, they make various kinds of trucks and products, but semi-trailers are the key product.

The company invested $8 million in capital in the past 36 months. “We are a very data rich environment with people using touch screens and some very technical positions. The plant is air conditioned.

Patience said, “If you took all the flooring that Harrison produces in one year, you could fill and stack it in Garrison Stadium all the way to the top of the goal post. Each piece is only 1 ⅜ inch thick. The floors of 80% of dry vans you see on the road are produced here.”

Thorpe PME

Eddie Bartlett, vp business sector manager for Thorpe said, “We have some great manufacturing facilities in our area. But our products are much larger than others you’ve seen today,” he told the participants on the call.

The company was originally called Tankinetics and Harrison was the first location to make speciality chemical tanks for the chemical business. “We make anything from a tank to fit on a desk to a tank that is 120 feet in diameter and 60 feet tall. All built out of fiberglass.”

Bartlett said, “The products we make interact in your world every day. Paints, plastic, refinery fluids, to name a few. We build storage vessels for extremely aggressive chemicals. Anything that goes into plastic even companies that produce hand sanitizers.”

“What we do is not greatly technical, but highly skilled,” he said. “We are looking for people who like to build things and get their hands dirty and think outside the box. We have opportunities for engineers, drafters and welders of plastic.”

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