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Camden Fairview students used advanced virtual and augmented reality last Thursday, September 9 to get a taste of what its like to work in a variety of technical fields with the help of the Be Pro Be Proud program.

Be Pro Be Proud is a workforce development initiative led by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas (AIA) that connects students around the state to high-tech, high-paying careers via "experience" granted by the AR and VR programs.

Montrell Thornton, tour director for Be Pro Be Proud, said the program gives a chance for students to look at jobs that might not require a traditional four-year degree saying.

"Everybody out in here society knows what the four-year world looks like, but they also need to know what the skill world looks like as well. You know a lot of our industries now are in a situation where we have a desperate need to continue your lights stay on at your house, make sure you have your plumbing and your utilities stay on for your every day life," he said.

Thornton said that rather than minimum wage, many skilled labor jobs offer "high end six figure" salaries.

"We have over 150 sponsors throughout the state of Arkansas, and we're trying to help the next students with those industries. So, those students that want to join an industry, we can show them that yellow brick road," he said.

Among the jobs showcased were welders, linemen, commercial truck driver, electricians and heavy equipment operators.

A 78-foot double expandable Be Pro Be Proud trailer features twelve interactive stations involving virtual and augmented reality that put students in the role of the prospective occupations. Camden Fairview students "drove" big rigs, "fixed" power lines and used a robotic arm to pick up foam chickens.

A press release from the organization states, "High schools play a crucial role in connecting students to education and industry, and Be Pro Be Proud is excited to partner with Camden Fairview in this movement. Be Pro Be Proud believes that working to replenish the declining workforce in manufacturing, utility, transportation, and construction industries will enhance the economic prosperity and opportunity in Arkansas."

Since 2016, Be Pro Be Proud has hosted more than 100,000 visitors on the Mobile Workshop, across 308 cities and 571 tour stops.

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