In partnership with Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative (SWAEC), the Southwest Arkansas Development Alliance (SADA) hosted Explore Success, a youth manufacturing conference for area 8th and 11th graders.
Over 1,000 students from Columbia, Hempstead, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Nevada and Sevier counties attended the event Tuesday at Hempstead Hall on the campus of University of Arkansas.
SWEPCO was one of 12 exhibitors, and Turk Power Plant Manager Tim Gross was a panelist speaker.
“It’s vital that [the area students] get introduced to the manufacturing opportunities that are available to them in Southwest Arkansas to keep the economic vitality going,” said Jennifer Harland, manager of External Affairs. “They are our future workforce, and we need to invest in them now.”
Local college representatives were on-hand to answer questions and speak to students on a variety of secondary education options, and approximately 12 local manufacturers, including representatives from Tyson, Georgia-Pacific and Firestone Building Products, answered questions and provided insight into what local employers seek in an incoming workforce.
“We’re trying to impress upon [the students] that there are some opportunities in Southwest Arkansas with our local industries,” said Steve Harris, president of Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation.
“If you look at the broader economic development field, the number one thing in site selection is the labor force,” said Harris. “We’ve got to look further down the road and train our eighth through eleventh graders for future job opportunities.”
Renowned speaker Paul Vitale began the conference Tuesday morning with a keynote presentation.