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Williston-Elko students got a hands-on learning experience about in-demand careers.

Be Pro Be Proud brought its mobile unit to Williston on Oct. 22 for middle and high school students to participate in a Workforce Workshop. While the machines inside the 53-foot, double-expandable 18-wheeler appeared to be video games, they actually provided students with a hands-on look at skilled professions, such as truck driving, welding, construction, and diesel technology.

“This experience was amazing for our students. They were able to learn so much more about these hands-on, skilled jobs by actually being able to virtually practice. It was also very useful for them to learn that there is a high demand for these jobs in South Carolina and they are high-paying! Last, it was helpful to learn about the website that the students can utilize in finding out information, moving forward,” said Cathy Smith, the global career development facilitator at Williston-Elko High School.

While Be Pro Be Proud isn’t looking to discourage students from attending a four-year college or university, the organization wants to highlight the various trade professions that are available.

“These are all good-paying jobs that are necessary in our society. I wish I had this type of experience when I was their age,” said Jonathan Holder, who operates the mobile unit.

He said these jobs haven’t been negatively affected by COVID-19. In fact, “they are stronger and busier than ever,” he said.

Showcasing these skilled trade professions is important because more than 24 percent of South Carolina’s skilled professionals either at or nearing retirement age, but the state’s workforce isn’t prepared to fill these positions. That’s why Be Pro Be Proud visits as many schools as possible.

“By changing how South Carolinians think about the job opportunities provided by skilled professions, we can inspire today’s youth and lead them, and our state, down the path to prosperity,” states

The visit proved to be inspiring for the Williston-Elko students.

WEHS junior Tushawn Savage, who is interested in being a welder after high school, said the Be Pro Be Proud experience was eye-opening as it showed him other potential careers he hadn’t previously considered. He especially enjoyed driving an 18-wheeler.

"When I started out my skill level was low, but once I practiced I greatly improved,” he said of participating in virtual activities.

Savage also said the organization’s website has a lot of helpful information about these careers, which provides a great starting point to find out about training and local jobs.

Sidney Mason, an eighth grader at Williston-Elko Middle School, aspires to be a lawyer, journalist, and philanthropist in the future; however, she was curious to see how other careers would be, such as the trade careers they experienced inside the mobile unit.

Even if the students don’t choose a skilled trade career in the future, Holder said he hopes the students gained a better appreciation for these jobs.

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