BERRYVILLE — U.S. Rep Steve Womack got a look at the Connect 4 program in Carroll County and he was impressed.
Connect 4 is a partnership started with the three Carroll County public schools — Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest — as a way to introduce high school students to the industrial world.
Mike Rogers, senior director of maintenance and refrigeration with Tyson Foods’ corporate office in Fayetteville, was on hand Monday at the old National Guard Armory in Berryville, which has been retooled to accommodate the program.
Rogers said the name harkens back to the checkers game of the same name. The three schools are connected with industry the way the checkers would be connected.
He explained that Connect 4 is an industrial maintenance pre-apprentice program. Juniors and seniors in high school are introduced to the myriad careers covered under industrial maintenance to see if they’re interested in any of them.
“It’s a mile wide and an inch deep,” Rogers said.
Because it takes five to 10 years to develop a tradesman, Tyson wants to recruit those students while they’re young rather than waiting for them to come to Tyson years after graduating.
Rodney Ellis, technical educational liaison with Tyson, said 75 or more careers can come out of the industrial maintenance field. It takes 8,000 hours as an apprentice to be qualified to sit for state testing to become a journeyman electrician.
Aside from the high school program, tradesmen can take advantage of Connect 4 at night in order to “up skill” their own training, Ellis said. Those participants must be employed in the field to qualify.
While touring the facility, Womack said he has come to realize that a four-year college degree is not for all high school students. There are plenty of high-paying, satisfying jobs in the industrial world.
State Rep. Ron McNair was also on the tour. He said that in nearly three decades he served on the Alpena School Board there had been a great deal of attention, probably too much, paid to sending all students to college when they might have made a better decision in industry.
Womack also pointed out that the kind of equipment that will be used in Connect 4 will be the kind of equipment those students will encounter in the real world, so they will have a marketable skill immediately after high school.
“I am 100 percent with you,” Womack told the group.