By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on April 26, 2023
It’s the morning of Monday, April 24 and there’s about 30 Manteo Middle school students in the Be Pro Be Proud trailer parked on the College of the Albemarle (COA) Dare County campus. The kids are really excited—and perhaps the best way to describe it is as organized mayhem.
Except the mayhem has a real purpose.
The Be Pro Be Proud trailer, hauled by a truck, has been traveling the state, stopping at schools and career fairs from Asheville to Manteo, bringing the message that there are great paying and very rewarding jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.
Inside the trailer, it’s a high-tech wonder of simulators. Driving a 53-foot-long tractor trailer is clearly the most popular thing to do, but everywhere there are kids wearing 3D goggles as they try to fix broken plumbing or build a wall. There’s a welding simulator and a log loader—the log loader, the operators are finding, is more difficult that it appears at first.
Manteo Middle School 8th grader Sharon de Leon is at the power line worker simulator, her eyes covered by goggles, her hands gripping the handles that help to tell the simulator where she’s going. She seems to be doing ok.
Be Pro Be Proud is a nonprofit that, according to the website is, “leading the movement to bring a new generation of pride, progress and professionals to North America’s skilled workforce.” Be Pro Be Proud is a national organization founded by the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce in 2016 to address a widening skills gap in transportation and the trades. Since that time, the organization has licensed its program in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, New Mexico and North Carolina.
Josh Seaford and his wife Trish have been traveling the state for Be Pro Be Proud North Carolina telling kids about the organization. The website, Seaford explains, has information about professions and companies that are looking for employees.
Looking around the trailer at the eighth graders at the different stations, he comments that for this age group, it’s really about introducing them to the trades.
“It’s a game room, especially for middle schoolers…We pretty much just show them the [Be Pro Be Proud] website and I go through it real quick,” he said.
The next day, on Tuesday, April 25, highs school students will be visiting and for those students, things are different.
“Once we get to high schoolers, we go a little more in depth with the with the website, because most of them are starting to think, ‘Hey, you know, it is getting closer to home here. Especially when you get juniors and seniors,” he said.
The next day is, in fact, different. The 10th grade First Flight High School students are more focused on what Seaford has to say. There is still very much a fun factor to what they’re doing—the line to drive the tractor trailer is still the longest—but for these kids, there is more thought about what they’re doing and what they might want to do with what they’re learning.
Sydney Ross is at the construction simulator. He’s carefully moving materials around, concentrating on each movement to make sure it’s done right.
Macallister Sawyer is at the welding simulator. He’s already tried his hand at it and now he’s standing by offering encouragement at another student sees how well she can spot weld.
The goal of helping students find careers in areas that do not require a four-year degree has been something Tim Sweeney, Dean of the COA Dare County campus, has been emphasizing for some time.
“There’s a whole generation that has missed the career and technical fields,” he explained. You have an aging population, the baby boomers, that are leaving the industry now. And there’s nobody to replace them.”
Duke Geraghty, the Government Affairs Director for the Outer Banks Home Builders Association (OBHBA), is also the president of Starco Realty and Construction. He has seen firsthand the effect a lack of skilled workers has had on his workforce.
“There’s a shortage of truck drivers right now,” he said. “I can’t get materials. We’re waiting 12, 16 weeks for windows.”
Geraghty first saw the Be Pro Be Proud truck at a North Carolina State Home Builders Association event in October and knew right away, it was something that he wanted Outer Banks students to experience.
“I went inside and looked and actually said, ‘Wow.’ I said, this is amazing, and this is something the kids can relate to.”
For Sweeney, hearing from Geraghty about the truck, was consistent with what he is hoping to create at COA and in line with the relationship he and the OBHBA have forged.
“I’ve got to give credit to the Outer Banks Homebuilders,” he said. “What you saw today is a lot of partnerships and hard work…a community college working with industry and the needs that they have,” he said.
What an awesome experience for the students! It gives me such hope for the future of workforce development and the next level of PreK-14 education. Thanks for bringing this vision to Dare! Well done!d
I am a heavy equipment Mechanic just retired for a job i have worked for the past 40 some year i didn`t have a college degree went for two year to WCC in Goldsboro I am glad to see thing like this trailer going around to various school there are a lot of paying jobs now the dont require a college degree .what i see for the future is a person male or female coming with these skills can find good high paying jobs anywhere