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Events | Business and IndustryApril 12, 2023

UAFS, WATC Students Shine at Draft Day

Written By: Ian Silvester

Hundreds of high school seniors from around the River Valley, including those enrolled in the Western Arkansas Technical Center (WATC) through the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, attended the Be Pro Be Proud Draft Day kickoff on Tuesday, March 14.

According to Anita Brackin, Vice President of Workforce Development for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, more than 40 area businesses and associations attended the event, with more than two dozen holding interviews with students. These included companies like ABB, Haas Automation, Inc., Hyrol, Bachoco OK Foods, Baptist Health, Mercy, and more.

Students enrolled in WATC working towards a career and education in fields related to advanced manufacturing or healthcare took advantage of the Draft Day event through networking opportunities.

“All these companies came out here because they know this is where they want to be to find students that want to work for them,” said Seth Ralston, a Northside High School senior enrolled in WATC.

Reflecting on his time in advanced manufacturing classes and lab, Seth says Tuesday’s event helped him feel like “a real adult” and believes the day helped prepare him and his fellow WATC classmates for what comes next.

“We’ve worked towards this for the last two, maybe three years. It feels like I’ve done everything I need to do,” Seth said.

Before the first day of the three-day event was complete, Seth had already secured a job at Maynard, Inc. in Fayetteville. Success stories like his are nothing new to the WATC program, but to have that success on a day like Draft Day, continues to speak volumes of WATC and UAFS.

“All of these industry partners are not only partnering with the collaborations happening in our area, but they’re huge supporters of our programs,” explained Amanda Seidenzahl, Director of WATC. “They are very vested and interested in our student pathways, and as students exit our programs and find employment, they’re doing the skills they’re learning.”

The culmination of programs like WATC and events like Draft Day exemplify what the Arkansas Department of Commerce hopes to continue to see in technical education.

Cody Waits, Division Director for the Arkansas Office of Skills Development, asks, “we call it career in technical education, why is it not just career education?”

Waits continued by saying that focusing on career education helps students and industries as they prepare to welcome the next workforce generation. He credits the success of WATC with preparing students for what lies ahead and allowing them to make decisions that will best suit their career path.

Seth echoed Waits by proudly saying, “today is our future; today is the first day of the rest of our lives.”

The Be Pro Be Proud Draft Day event was just one of four in Arkansas. The first came in 2022 in Jonesboro and has helped lay the foundation for other events to follow.

  • Tags:
  • Career Education
  • WATC