The Economic Alliance for Jefferson County combined with Economics Arkansas held a “Connecting Educators to Industry” activity Tuesday that took area teachers around to industrial sites in Jefferson County to educate them on what is needed to prepare high school students for the work force.

Teachers took tours of Highland Pellet and Kiswire Pine Bluff before making a trip to the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library where a panel of industry leaders from Jefferson County spoke with them about what is needed for students to enter the workforce.

The panel was made up of Peter Austin, the Senior Vice President and COO of Jefferson Regional Hospital, Joe Glass, the Power and Recovery Business Unit Manager at Pactiv Evergreen, Chris Hart, President and CEO of Central Moloney, and Ronnie Wilhite, the Plant Manager at Wheeling Machine Products.

One of the big concerns for the members of the panel is high turnover with employees not showing up to work. Central Moloney CEO Chris Hart said that he believes one issue is people are not conditioned to handle long work days.

Wheeling Machine Products Plant Manager Ronnie Wilhite agreed with Hart, saying his company is experiencing the same issues.

Hart said that people today don’t have good examples of what it takes to be employable and able to show up for work prepared to be productive.

Hart shared that Central Moloney paid each employee a $2,000 Christmas bonus this past year, and he is hoping to increase that amount in the future.

Wilhite said that Wheeling Machine is also offering bonuses for employees.

Hart stated that females make up some of his best and most productive employees compared to their male counterparts in the work place.

One key note of emphasis from all four members of the panel is the need for better education in schools to help prepare young adults who are entering the workforce. All four panel members stated that younger employees are showing up for work struggling with basic math, while others are having to have other people fill our applications for them because they struggle to read and write.