Students learn to “Be Pro, Be Proud”

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Beaufort County students learned how to “Be Pro, Be Proud” this week. 

Be Pro, Be Proud North Carolina is an organization that encourages students to consider careers in the trade workforce. It is an initiative by the North Carolina Home Builders Educational and Charitable Foundation. The organization visited SW Snowden Middle School, PS Jones Middle School, North East Middle School, per their website.

Josh Seaford and his wife Trish brought a mobile workshop to the schools. The workshop is a truck filled with simulators and virtual reality equipment. The purpose is to show students what it would look like to work in a trade. The Seaford’s workshop has different stations focused on trades popular in North Carolina like a simulation of driving a semi-truck, operating heavy equipment, a diamond bucket used by linemen, four construction virtual reality goggles as well as welding, plumbing, carpentry, heating and air virtual reality simulations and a computer numerical control (CNC) operator. 

Josh Seaford said showing the mobile workshop to middle school students is important, because it can help them plan their high school classes which may include Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. High school students, he said, have shown real interest in the workshop and career possibilities. 

“Obviously if they come up with a plan now, when they get out of school, they’re right to making money instead of getting into school and trying to figure it out,” Seaford said. “Years ago we didn’t have this option and how nice would it have been knowing all of these opportunities were out here.”  

Seaford has experience working in home and commercial construction. He started working right after graduating from high school. Since the 2008 recession, he has struggled to go back to the industry because it is difficult to find consistent help. 

“Honestly, I probably would be doing it now if I could find the help, but I can’t. No one person can do it and that just shows, it’s pure evidence we have a need for it,” Seaford said. 

According to Be Pro Be Proud, more than 24% of current skilled professionals are at or near retirement age; however, there are not enough young people entering skilled occupations to fill job vacancies left by those retiring. They also report that 84% of manufacturers report shortages in skilled professionals and 86% of commercial builders struggle to fill open positions. 

Seaford said wages for skilled workers are increasing, because there are less and less people in skilled jobs. Students who go into a skilled occupation can possibly earn the same amount of money students who attend four year schools spend on their education within the same timeframe. Base pay for construction workers, electricians, linemen, machinists and plumbers are around $50,000. Some companies will pay for their employees’ education; therefore, these students can attend college debt free. 

In North Carolina, 14,481 students have seen the Be Pro Be Proud display and within that 549 “joined the movement.” Meaning, they filled out a survey letting sponsors of the organization know they are interested in working in trade and which jobs appeal to them most. They also list their graduation date and plans after high school. Those sponsors can reach out to students giving them information about their companies and employment opportunities. The sponsors include home builders, electricians, trucking companies and machinery companies. 

“Be Pro Be Proud” has mobile workshops  in Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.