Arkansas Trucking Association

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The Last Word

Building Tomorrow's Workforce

By Kenneth Calhoun

And suddenly we were not alone anymore.

For my entire career, we have been sounding the alarm that there is a shortage of skilled labor to both operate and maintain our trucks. Now it seems that the whole world has realized that there is a shortage of skilled labor. Who could have imagined that doing away with the programs in our educational system that taught us how to weld, repair small engines, build a jewelry box or wire a house could have such an impact?

If there is a silver lining in this crisis—and yes, it has reached crisis level—it is that there are now thousands of initiatives focused on workforce. Even individual communities are stepping up to fund and build gleaming career and technical education centers all around the country.

However, I now have to sound the alarm again. Even with the massive influx of money and publicity directed at the issue, we do not get to stand by and watch.

In industry, we know all too well that the one constant that we can absolutely count on is change. Often forced on us through mandates and legislation, but it also arrives through advancements in technology that make us safer and more efficient. Change just keeps coming. It is incumbent on us the employers that are clamoring for skilled people to meet the demands our business puts on us to make sure that these education and training centers reflect the technology that we use every day. That can only happen if we, the people who use the technology, are engaged with education in an ongoing manner. We must define expectations. We must be willing to report statistics on who we hire and how long they stay. We must engage in Program Advisory Committees. We absolutely must make sure that we do not accept obsolescence in the skills that are being taught or the equipment that is being used to teach them. Preparing the workers of tomorrow with the equipment and training aids of yesteryear has no value.

On more than one occasion I have heard it said that industry has given up on education. It is even possible that I may have said it myself. Clearly the notion that we would simply grow our own workforce has not kept up with demand. That silver lining that is available to us now to rebuild the educational infrastructure cannot be wasted. This is the part where we as industry engage and make sure that it is done well. Like any living thing, this will require nurturing in order to keep it viable, which means the idea that we make a one-time effort, pat ourselves on the back and move on is a nonstarter.

Engage, speak up, and if you send a delegate, make sure that they are armed with the authority to commit on behalf of your organization. Your involvement simply isn’t optional.

Kenneth Calhoun has served as chairman of the Arkansas Trucking Association’s Maintenance and Technology Council, general chairman and treasurer of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations and has served on the Legislative Task Force on Workforce Education Excellence in Arkansas. He chairs the Program Advisory Committee for the Diesel Technology program for ASU Beebe/Searcy and established TMC’s Apprenticeship Standards Committee. He is on the board for the Be Pro Be Proud Foundation. In June 2020, Calhoun was appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson to serve on the Career Education and Workforce Development Board which he now chairs.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
  • SERVE our members to help them to grow their business and their profits
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