We Need More Unsung Heroes

By Maci England and Lindsay Irvin on Friday, October 13, 2023

Jacob Slaton
Elijah Woodward’s favorite aspect of his job in agriculture is the rewarding feeling he gets after solving problems and putting his customers back in the field.

Imagine if you woke up one hot summer day and your air conditioning stopped working (and there was no one to fix it), or if your electricity went out (and you had no one to call). From plumbers and power line crews to truck drivers and teachers, there’s a slew of professions that often go unappreciated despite being absolutely essential to our society.

It’s these critical roles that Arkansas is desperate to grow a steady pipeline of trained workers. It’s why local colleges, universities, industry leaders, companies and the state are working together to promote the trades and recruit YOU to suit up and be future heroes in your communities. 

New training and degree programs, added internships and apprenticeships, higher wages and more perks are springing up across the state to sweeten the pot for curious candidates. 

Consider the following statistics and testimonials—and see if saving the day just so happens to be your calling!


Farmers and agriculture professionals are vital to our communities. They provide us with nutritious food to fill our bellies, and yet, when asked where our food comes from, most students don’t hesitate to say the grocery store. 

Long before food ever gets to stores or to our plates, farmers, agri techs, heavy equipment operators and diesel techs put in months of hard work to get it there. And food isn’t all they’re growing; Arkansas agriculture pros produce non-food essentials like cotton and lumber too.

The impact of agricultural work is great. “Agriculture is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050,” according to worldbank.org. 

Arkansas farmer Larry Henderson continues his family’s legacy by running Henderson Farms in Trumann.  

“My family has always farmed as far back as we can trace, so I lived and grew up on a farm,” Henderson said. “I loved the independence of making my own decisions.”

Henderson and other farmers face many tough challenges like poor crop seasons, climate change and severe weather. This is why farmers must stay committed and resourceful.

“It’s great when everything works out, but there are a multitude of things you can’t control...” Henderson said. “One of the major skills that a farmer develops is to learn to adapt to changing circumstances.”

There are more than 260,000 Arkansans employed in agriculture, and they’re not just farming on Arkansas’ 49,346 farms. They’re fixing farm equipment, studying soil, analyzing economic trends, managing livestock and operating food processing equipment—all putting Arkansas on the map for major exports of rice, soybeans, cotton, poultry, catfish and lumber. 

“Agriculture touches every corner of our state and there are jobs in almost every field. ...Working in Arkansas agriculture offers the opportunity to support an industry that sustains the citizens of our state, the nation, and across the globe.” – Amy Lyman with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture

“I think it is imperative that women reapproach agriculture as a viable trade and lifestyle,” said Kesha Cobbs, founder of Black Women in Agriculture and president of the National Women in Agriculture Arkansas Chapter. “We feed, clothe and nurture this state, as well as the world.”


  • About 205 million people have so little food that their lives are at risk.
  • More mouths to feed. “In the next 50 years farmers around the world will have to feed more people than in the previous 100 years.” –Arkansas Farm Bureau
  • There are big disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted agriculture, and climate change is a constant disruption.
  • Farmland is shrinking; 54 million acres (the size of Idaho!) were permanently lost from 1997 to 2017. –USDA Census of Agriculture
  • Farmers are retiring. The average age of an Arkansas farmer is 57; that means job openings!
  • Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry. That means there’ll always be jobs to fill.
  • Agriculture needs more women. Only 36% of farmers are women. –USDA Census of Agriculture

Jacob Slaton
“They definitely like and want to ride the bucket trucks,” Clint said. “That makes your day.”


Power outages are a big deal in our communities. Whether it’s isolated to our family homes or there’s citywide chaos after a big storm, linemen and electricians work day and night to restore power—and we need power to do just about everything. Our internet routers need electricity to keep us online. Air conditioners and heaters need power. Even the registers at our local grocery stores and gas station pumps need power to give us access to food and fuel. 

Being able to call on skilled professionals to repair power lines and fix electrical issues at home is critical. And because storms are so unpredictable, linemen never know when they are going to be called into crisis or how far they’ll have to travel to help. 

Their work is often dangerous, too, risking electrocution if they come into contact with live wires. Fortunately,  they’re compensated well for the risks. Top-earning linemen in Arkansas make an average of $96,300!

When there aren’t outages, electricians still do important work—adjusting equipment, evaluating the safety of operational lines, grids and breakers, setting up wiring for illumination, and so much more.   

Pedro Chavez is an electrical superintendent at Kimbel Mechanical who earned his residential journey electrical license through the Arkansas Construction Education Foundation. He loves that his career makes him a dependable person to call in a time of need. 

“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Pedro said. “To know that not everyone can just do what you do…definitely gives me a sense of purpose and something I can be proud of.”

He said it’s easy for people to forget how important electricity is.

Electricians earn good wages and enjoy job security. In fact, licensed electrician job openings are expected to grow 12% in Arkansas by 2028. 


Did you know over 86% of Arkansas communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods? 

“From your backpack to your cellphone to your breakfast this morning–nearly everything you touch was delivered by a truck,” said Kelly Cargill Crow, vice president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. “Professional truck drivers support communities throughout the country by providing life-saving medicine during pandemics, critical supplies in the face of tornados and groceries amid global supply chain shortages.”

To deliver these goods, commercial truck drivers spend days and weeks on the road away from the comforts of home—away from their families. Drivers travel overnight and long distances in order to get what they’re delivering where it needs to be. They spend a lot of time alone. They work long hours. And they are one of the most underappreciated workers in America. Fortunately, employers show their appreciation with great wages and a ton of perks.

Truck drivers deliver nearly 70% of all freight in the United States. However, experts estimate that there are 50,000 unfilled truck driver jobs at this very moment.

“No matter the situation, the weather, or the time of year, truck drivers are essential to ensuring we all have the things we want and the supplies we need,” Cargill Crow said.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for supply chain managers is at an all-time high!

Arkansas supply chain managers make up to $165,220 per year. By 2023, it’s estimated that Arkansas will be home to 1,130 supply chain managers. 

Jacob Slaton
Construction professional Dalton Smith said he takes pride in making sure his co-workers and the public stay safe.


Construction laborers play a crucial role in our communities and perhaps the backbone of modern society’s built environment.

Workers are responsible for building and maintaining structures that are essential for transportation, communication, commerce and daily living, including roads, bridges, buildings and utilities. They create safe and comfortable living and working environments for us—ensuring proper ventilation, fire safety and structural integrity. 

The industry as a whole is a major contributor to local economies, too—with each new project, more jobs are created!

Beyond building and renovating, these skilled tradespeople are essential during disaster recovery. Their work (like clearing debris and repairing damaged structures) is crucial for restoring communities. Their talents also lend a hand in preserving historical landmarks treasured by locals, maintaining them for future generations to appreciate.

There are so many ways to build a fulfilling career in construction, too; every single role is vital to the success of projects. Architects, engineers, estimators, project managers, masons, carpenters, plumbers and more all play a part.


  • The Arkansas Construction Education Foundation offers apprenticeship programs in carpentry, construction, electrical, plumbing and HVAC. To apply for apprenticeships, visit myacef.org.
  • Scholarships for full-time students majoring in construction programs or trade schools in Arkansas are available from Associated General Contractors of Arkansas. Learn more at agcar.net.



Every day, more than 45,000 flights are monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Air Traffic Organization. These flights have close to 3 million airline passengers flying across more than 24 million square miles of airspace. Look up; there are up to 13,000 airplanes in the air at any given time!

Keeping millions of humans safe aboard these flights—every single day—is one of the most important jobs in the world. 

While pilots and aircraft maintenance workers have essential roles in keeping passengers safe, it is the air traffic controllers who look out for safety above all else. Air traffic controllers manage the flow of aircraft in and out of airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing and monitor planes as they travel through the skies. There is zero margin of error; a single mistake puts lives at risk. Their work can be stressful, as utmost concentration is required at all times. Nights, weekends and rotating shifts are common. Because of the serious nature of this work, the FAA requires a demanding training regimen.

Surprisingly, there are only 13,693 air traffic controllers responsible for the 2.9 million daily passengers (and 45 billion pounds of cargo). 

“Air traffic controllers save lives as vital contributors that make flying the safest mode of travel…they have enormous roles in ensuring safe, efficient and reliable air travel,” said Shane Carter, director of public affairs and government relations at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Demand for this occupation is growing, with 4,360 new jobs needing to be filled by 2029. Despite the increased job demand, the number of air traffic controllers decreased in 2022. Meanwhile, the number of flights in the U.S. rose by 18% and the number of passengers flying increased by 55% (this large increase is due to travel picking back up post-pandemic).

“We don’t have enough pilots. We don’t have enough maintenance people, and we don’t have enough air traffic controllers,” U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who chairs the Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation committee, said in an interview with Reuters.

Rich Santa, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, agreed during a March 2023 FAA forum. “We have a staffing issue,” he said. “There are 1,200 fewer certified air traffic controllers than a decade ago.”

The skies need you.

“Air traffic controllers save lives…they have enormous roles in ensuring safe, efficient and reliable air travel.” ­­­­­—Shane Carter, Clinton National Airport


  • $132,250 — Median annual wage
  • $63.58 — Median hourly wage

  • Teachers
  • First responders
  • Nurses
  • Social workers & family advocates
  • Armed forces
  • Waste management workers
  • Home health aides 
  • Hospice caregivers
  • Plumbers
  • Law enforcement


Jobs that save the day (and your bank account!)
  • TRUCK DRIVERS: Earn a median annual wage of $43,180; top 10% earn an average of $73,170
  • LINEMEN: Earn a median annual wage of $65,090; top 10% earn an average of $96,300
  • ELECTRICIANS: Earn a median annual wage of $46,600; top 10% earn an average of $62,900
  • PLUMBERS: Earn a median annual wage of $45,980; top 10% earn an average of $63,120
  • CONSTRUCTION WORKERS: Earn a median annual wage of $34,230; top 10% earn an average of $46,040
  • CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS: Earn a median annual wage of $76,550; top 10% earn an average of $100,000