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Initiative invites Forsyth Central students to learn more about technical professions in Georgia
Be Pro Be Proud
Operations Manager Scott Callaway parked Be Pro Be Proud Georgia's mobile workshop in a parking lot outside of Forsyth Central High School. Groups of students visited the workshop over three days to learn more about technical jobs in Georgia that are in high-demand. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Be Pro Be Proud Georgia, the state’s first mobile workforce workshop that introduces students to technical skills and options, visited Forsyth Central High School on Feb. 17-19, inviting kids to take part in simulation games while learning more about professions that are in high demand in the state.

Operations Manager Scott Callaway explained the Be Pro Be Proud Georgia initiative, launched by the Cherokee Office of Economic Development over the past summer, aims to introduce students in the metro Atlanta area to paths toward skilled professions to help find a solution to challenges currently facing Georgia’s workforce.

According to a statement from the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, more than 47% of Georgia’s skilled professionals are over the age of 45 and nearing retirement.

Callaway, a Georgia native, said he also wants to introduce students to options available to them after high school outside of a four-year university and degree.

“In some cases, you can go sit down at a university and choose a major that has no value in the marketplace, meaning there’s not a lot of jobs for it,” Callaway said. “And so you pay a lot for the education, you graduate, you get out there and then realize … it’s a tough road ahead out here. There are no jobs for [this profession] and I’ve got to go figure something else out.’”

Callaway travelled to the back parking lot at Forsyth Central for three days, welcoming groups of students onto the Be Pro Be Proud mobile workshop, a 40-foot custom trailer. Callaway spent the first fifteen minutes with each group introducing them to the initiative’s website and explaining different professions that are in high demand in the state.

The initiative highlights 15 different professions in five major industries: commercial transportation, technology, manufacturing, construction and health care.

One the website, students can take the time to look at different professions and find where their interests lie. From there, they can click on a profession they may be interested in to find more information about the number of those jobs available, who is hiring that kind of worker in Georgia, and how much the average employee makes.

It also shares information on where in the area they can find an educational program that will lead them into that job, how long those educational programs take and how much it would cost.

After directing them to the website, which serves as a tool for students to use while looking at their options after graduation, Callaway sends them off to start interacting with the mobile workstation’s six different simulators.

The stations include:

- A game, where two students touch tiles that light up in two different colors, that teaches hand-eye coordination;

- A welding simulator which challenges students to use a welding tool to combine two pieces of metal shown on a screen in front of them;

- A health care training module, which allows students to take a 3-D tour of the human body;

- A trucking simulator where students use a Logitech wheel and pedals hooked into an Xbox to drive a truck on screen and complete different challenges;

- A game where students attach pipes together on one of the walls of the trailer, working to build from one spot to the other while learning more about the work of plumbers;

- And a table where students can control a small robot and learn more about automation and robotics.

The stations serve as a fun, hands-on way for eighth- to 12th-grade students to learn more about the professions the initiative highlights.

Callaway said the skill sets required in these jobs — such as those in computer programming, commercial truck driving, plumbing, construction, automation and robotics— do not require students to earn a four-year degree. For many of these jobs, students can attend a technical school where they can spend less time and less money in college, which he said makes it a great option for those students who cannot afford to take out student loans.

He said that the global coronavirus pandemic that began last year has reminded many that these jobs are essential across the nation. No matter what happens in the country, a pandemic, recession or changing workforce, these jobs will always be in demand.

“It doesn’t matter if you live in this county or L.A., California,” Callaway said. “If you can do something in one of those five, you’ve got a career.”

The original Be Pro Be Proud initiative was created five years ago in Arkansas, and Callaway explained when others from Georgia showed up to one of the events, they began plans to expand. The initiative began in Georgia in July 2020, and the mobile workstation visited its first school, in Cherokee County, in October.

The visit to Forsyth Central marks one of the first visits to a school in North Georgia as they work to expand the initiative and inform kids all across the state about their options after graduation.

“Let’s let them know the whole spectrum of information, not just half it,” Callaway said.