Carroll County School District students were offered an opportunity Monday and Tuesday to explore career options outside of the traditional four-year college spectrum.

The Be Pro Be Proud (BPBP) Georgia Tour visited the North College and Career Academy (NCCA) in Villa Rica to promote high-demand trade professions in the state.

“Thank you to the Be Pro Be Proud Tour for supporting our district’s future-focused mission to prepare students to be enrolled, employed, enlisted and engaged in their community upon graduation,” County Schools officials said in an official statement.

BPBP Georgia is an organization launched by the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED). Its initiative is to inspire youth and connect them with professions that will enhance Georgia’s workforce.

“Driven by feedback from our industries, we at the Cherokee Office of Economic Development started digging into the gap between education and industry. Then, our leadership decided to do something about it,” said Misti Martin, president and CEO of BPBP Georgia and the COED. “Our interest started with a local problem we were trying to solve, but we all know that it’s really a national problem.”

During the two-day event, almost 200 students participated each day at the Be Pro Workshop. The workshop is located in BPBP’s 40-foot, custom-built expandable trailer. Workshop stations inside the trailer offer virtual reality, augmented reality, and hands-on experiences for students to better understand various professions.

After BPBP’s first day at NCCA, County Schools officials said students had the opportunity to explore innovative, high-demand careers such as computer programming, robotics and healthcare through interactive stations and simulators.

“This is very timely information for our students about the current gaps in our workforce,” said Tracey Barrow, principal of the NCCA. “We hope this interactive experience will inspire today’s youth and lead them to make good choices about their future career.”

The BPBP movement promotes such professions as carpenters, electricians, commercial truck drivers, welders, plumbers, diesel technicians and machinists. BPBP also offers insight into other in-demand careers and will feature more in the future.

“We seek to educate our Georgia students on all the opportunities within the skilled professions; from what the separate skills are, how each student fits into them, how to get certified, and how to find a career locally once certified,” said Scott Callaway, operations manager of the BPBP Georgia Tour. “In a country that highlights four-year degrees as the trophy for more than 10 years of schooling K-12, it’s time that our students had the full spectrum of opportunities from which to choose.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and The Manufacturing Institute (TMI) states that tens of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing, transportation, utility, and construction industries are unfilled in states all across the country. With fewer people encouraging youth to pursue trade careers, that number is likely to climb, according to BPBP National.

BLS and TMI also noted that more than 23% of technical professionals are at or near retirement age, two million jobs are expected to go unfilled by 2025 due to the growing skills gap, and more than 84% of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage in skilled production works.

“We started Be Pro Be Proud Georgia in Cherokee County, knowing that we would scale it regionally and statewide. This initiative is bigger than one county, or one state, it is a movement that can finally dispel the myths about the skilled professions,” Martin said. “It’s time for us to put the pride back into the skilled professions, and Be Pro Be Proud Georgia is doing it.”