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Youth mfg. conference held for area 8th grade students

By Photos submitted, 09/25/19 3:22 PM

HOPE – Eighth graders from 17 schools in Southwest Arkansas were told the secret to success: have a positive attitude, show up on time ready to work, be able to pass a drug test, work as a team and watch what’s posted on social media.

Almost 1,000 students from these schools were on hand for the Second Annual Explore Success Youth Manufacturing Conference held at Hempstead Hall on the campus of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Tuesday. The schools involved were: Bearden, Blevins, Bradley, Caddo Hills, Dierks, Emerson, Fouke, Genoa Central, Hope Academy of Public Service, Horatio, Junction City, Lafayette County, Nashville, Nevada, Prescott, Spring Hill and Taylor. The event was sponsored by UAHT, the Southwest Arkansas Development Alliance (the regional economic development organization the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office partners with), the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District, DeQueen/Mena Education Service Cooperative, the South Central Service Cooperative and the Southwest Arkansas Educational Cooperative.

The day began with the students hearing a motivational talk from Paul Vitale, who told them about making career choices. The state of Arkansas now requires eighth grade students to fill out a career plan at school and work on it throughout their high school years. The idea is to help them get started on a path for their future and learn about the classes they’ll need to take for the jobs they want so they can reach their goals. They were given “Student Playbooks” by Vitale, which covers different topics they’ll need to consider for their future. The topics include: academic achievement, money management, mastering a craft, time management and character development.

The conference, according to Mary Godwin, director of the PNCEDO, the conference is to partner economic development with education and manufacturing as Southwest Arkansas has a higher number of manufacturing jobs than most other areas in the state. The idea is also to make sure manufacturers have a reliable workforce to retain existing jobs and add new ones.

The students are shown the different jobs available in the region. They were informed their future employers will be checking what they do on social media, and check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites to see who people are friends with and what kinds of things they’re posting on line. Godwin said some people won’t be offered jobs simply because of posts made on social media, regardless of their skill sets.

It wasn’t all talks and seminars for the students. They also got the chance to have some fun and get some hands-on experience. UAHT had its mobile welding classroom on hands with demonstrations given. Students were also given the opportunity to try their hand at welding. UA Cossatot brought its mobile truck driving classroom, with students getting to test their driving skills behind the wheel of a big rig (virtual reality, not actual driving).

Lunch was provided by Tyson Foods, SADA and Southern Bakery. Some of the businesses on hand were: Blue Ribbon Life Foundation, Express Employment, Firestone, Pafford EMS, National Park Service, New Millenium, Southern Bakeries, SWEPCO, Texas Aluminum, and Tyson Foods.

Godwin said a career fair for high school juniors and seniors will be held in the Spring. No date has been set for this event as yet.