Visit Page
Skip to content

Episode 109: Skills Lab Training is Preparing Northwest Arkansas’ Next Generation For Employment Success

Spread the Ozark love

IANWA Open [0:11] It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship, and life in general here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilburn.

Randy Wilburn [0:42] Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host, Randy Wilburn and I'm excited today because I have two great guests with me, Christie Martin and Beth Pittman. Both of these guys are from Skills Lab Training. I connected with them a while back and I forget exactly how we met, but they are recruiters. With my background in recruiting and my former life experience as a recruiter, I've always had an affinity to talk to other recruiters and gain insight from them on things that they're doing. These guys come out of Cameron Smith & Associates, where they currently work. They discovered one of the biggest needs that I've seen for years in the NA industry and that's simply training young people to be adequately prepared to enter the workforce with confidence. And that's what both Beth and Christie do at Skills Lab Training. And so, without further ado, Christie Martin Beth Pittman, welcome to the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast. How are you guys doing today?

Chris / Martin [1:41] Thank you. Thank you for having us. Well, you make it sound really good?

Randy Wilburn [1:48] No, that's no problem. Again, as I said, it is near and dear to my heart. It's simply how do we equip the next generation to work in the workforce period? And I think a lot of times, we just figure, oh, well, they will figure it out. And you know, you guys, I don't know your ages, which doesn't matter, but I know I'm 51. I always tell my age because I'm not afraid of it, but the reality is I learned some things at a young age that I know a lot of kids today are not learning. And that's just the reality of it. And so, I would love for you guys, both of you and Beth; I will let you go first. Why don't you tell our audience that we always do this, your superhero origin story, and how you got to the place you are right now with Skills Lab Training.

Beth Pittman [2:29] So I started with Walmart as an internal recruiter for Walmart and did hires for them and worked for them for seven years, all in different areas. And then, when I left Walmart, I went to work at a third-party firm with Cameron. And we worked with mid to upper-level executives who were looking for opportunities. And so, what we did was, as we have seen throughout our time at Cameron is that we would have clients who would reach out to us and say, I have got a kid who's in high school that's looking for their first job or is in college that's finishing them, and they don't know what they're going to do with their next steps. Can you talk to them and give them some job search tips or some interview tips? And so, we started doing that on the side because Cameron didn't work with college and high school students. So, we started doing that and it worked out really well. And so, Christie and I were tossing around the idea and I said there might be something here. There might be an opportunity here for us to start our little side venture. And as it grew, we really saw that there is a need that kids who are coming out of high school and going into college are a little bit confused. They don't have all the answers, and they shouldn't; I mean, who did when they were 18. And so, we are really trying to help them make decisions like, is college right for me? And then also, if you're not going to college, what are you going to do? Are you looking at the right opportunities? Are you pursuing the right interest, and really trying to understand what that looks like? We found that sitting down and having conversations and coaching with them, students feel more confident coming out of that. And it was an excellent opportunity to help them with their next steps. And so, since we are recruiters, we know what that looks like with hiring managers. We know what they're looking for, so it was an easy transition for us.

Randy Wilburn [4:21] I can imagine that.

Christie Martin [4:23] Christie, you want to piggyback on that and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Christie Martin [4:27 Sure. So, Beth and I followed some similar career paths and that's how we met. We met when I was also a recruiter at Walmart Corporate’s office and so, we had made that initial connection working together. She moved on and I moved on to some different stages in life, and then we came back together at Cameron Smith & Associates, and so we have a lot of years and expertise in working with professionals to take that next step in their career. As she said, we just saw this gap in the market around helping professionals find their next step and prepare for those next steps, whether with resumes, interview skills, or some coaching around what path to follow. These people were coming out of high school and college that weren't getting that same preparation. And so, we decided we can take our skills from working with professionals and take that down to this generation that’s eager and excited to get to the next stage. Most of the time, we find that many of them are very aware that they need some planning, and they need some preparation and want to make the right choices. And so, helping those people, but then also helping those students that are just a little confused. And I think we have a heart for that because we have seen so many professionals work through their careers and maybe get to a stage where they are not happy with how they began and what they have been doing and want to make a change. And so, the opportunity to help people prepare earlier in life, we just naturally have a heart to do that, set those people up for success and do something that they are passionate about and interested in. And it's going to be a lifelong pursuit.

Randy Wilburn [6:09] I think it is so needed in this day and age, and I'm always telling people that anyone who will listen to me will need to prepare the next generation. And it's not being done enough with like forethought with intentionality, and, of course, as recruiters, we have all seen it. We even see it at 35, 40 years of age that have been in the workforce for a while. They still struggle with some of the basic things and we're like, you didn't figure that out. And so, some of us get it, some of us don't. Everybody comes to understand what should be done and how we should do things at a certain point in their lives. And so, I have teenagers in my house; I have two. I have a 10-year-old and I'm always harping on focusing on the little things that add up to bigger things. Relationship building, the importance of writing thank-you notes, which that's like heresy. You ask a Gen Z to write a thank you note, that's like, what is that? Can I snap it? No, you can't snap it. It's not something that you will send a Twitter message on; you have to physically get out a pen and paper and write a note. But it's these little things that sometimes we take for granted, those of a specific age range, that you just figure, oh, that's common sense, or everybody knows that. And the reality is that everybody doesn't know that. And I think that's really where Skills Lab Training comes in because you guys can honestly fill in the learning gap that many young people have when it comes to preparedness for the workforce.

Christie Martin [7:44] And to that point, Randy, we find that parents often feel the burden of their teenagers’ or students’ preparation. They feel like, well, I got a successful career, I went through college, or I made my way in life and so that is my responsibility to guide my student through that stage in their life and why would I seek out any help or is there even any help to seek out in that realm. I should be helping my students through that, not thinking to look for an outside resource or that could be a value in getting a neutral voice or opinion or a third party to come in. But so often, when we would look to bring in a tutor for math, an ACC prep, or a pitching coach for baseball, those would be instant things that we would go and seek help with. But as parents, we often feel like it's my responsibility and will guide my students through that. Sometimes there's a lot of frustration, confusion, conversations that are getting shut down, so that's where we come in to try and help with those. We found that using a neutral voice is very helpful for some families.

Randy Wilburn [8:56] Without a doubt. As I'm sitting here listening to you say that, Christie, all I can think is my 16-year old thinks he knows it all and then he doesn't want to listen. I'm an idiot as far as his dad is. No, he doesn't think I'm an idiot, but he thinks he has it all figured out. And I think the reality sometimes is that I've tried to teach him several personal skills. I've tried to teach him basketball, but I have found that when I inject a third party into the mix, he tends to be more open to hearing from them, same with my 10-year-old. I got a soccer coach for him to work on certain things specifically. It’s important sometimes to have that third party that can come in and speak to your children specifically about the things they should do. While it is my responsibility, I think the responsibility is to make sure I understand how my child learns and then the best method to expose him to become the best version of himself. And if that means sending him to a program, like Skills Lab Training, or to any finishing program for that perspective, as a parent, I need to be doing that otherwise, I may be considered derelict in my duty.

Beth Pittman [10:15] Well, we would like to give a shout-out to the guidance counselors at the high schools and the colleges. They are doing a great job, but they have a hard time meeting with every student one on one and trying to get them prepared for the next step. So, we like to come along beside them and help supplement what they're already doing and helping with. When someone comes in for a coaching session or a workshop with us, the parent is the one who has paid for that service. We would like to give the parents feedback, information, and homework to work with their students. The next step is talking points and what that looks like to have a full partnership relationship. We know how difficult it can be as having teenagers myself and doing this for a living. My daughter thinks that I don't know what I'm doing, so it's very funny to see how the parent has no knowledge but yet if I brought Christie in, who has the same skills that I do, she's a genius. So, we have to do what we have to do to keep our kids successful and self-sufficient.

Randy Wilburn [11:25] So I'm curious to know the feedback you have received from parents who have brought you guys alongside them to help the young people in their households become better and prepare for things as they move forward?

Christie Martin [11:41] I think the biggest feedback we have gotten is that we have opened up the conversation for the parents and students to remove some barriers. I guess the student may have heard a few things from us that they also heard from their parents. So that removed some barriers to realize that their parents do know what they're talking about. I had this expert tell me something very similar and so, we are totally fine with that. We are reiterating and that just removes the barrier at home. We have given some feedback that has allowed some more meaningful conversations and maybe some leaders for the parents to have with that student to drive the conversation a little bit further, which is ultimately our goal. We want the discussions to continue at home and we want the thought processes to continue after we leave that session with a student.

Beth Pittman [12:31] I think one of the other things is sometimes we offer some clarity to what the student is experiencing. We see students avoiding parents not wanting to talk about their future, especially during this COVID time. They don't want to go to college, but they don't know what they want to do. And the parents are like, what do you want to do, we need to know. And so, once we sit down and talk to a teen, we figure out that they don't know what they want to do either and they are scared. And the thing that we're able to do is, as Christie said, open up that conversation, identify some of the things if you’re deciding not to go to college this year but you want to go to college, what can you do in the meantime to help continue to prepare for that, or to get you set up in another area. Maybe that's going straight to work. Perhaps that's a gap year. Maybe that's interning. That could be several things that they have not thought about, or maybe thought about, but don't know how to go about it. And so, we definitely have parents get some clarity about what's going on with their kids.

Randy Wilburn [13:34] I'm curious to know, what are you hearing from young people? You don't have to mention names, of course, but just the overall tenor of the conversations that you're having with young people right now, amid the pandemic. As we record this, it is currently February of 2021 and I know that a lot of young people see a lot of challenges up ahead. I’m just curious to know how you guys are navigating, though that uncertainty that I'm sure several young people feel because adults feel it, so I mean, that's just the reality of the case.

Beth Pittman [14:11] Well, several kids want to go to college because they want to experience the whole college experience, not just to get a degree. They want to go to parties. They want to join a fraternity. They want to live on campus. They want to be independent of their parents, and they see that's not an option with COVID, or if things are loosening up and different things are happening. Colleges and universities are doing a great job right now to keep their students safe, so there is some confusion. And the thing that I'm hearing is that they don't necessarily want to live at home. They've been there for 18 years and they're ready to try and do something different. They don't know what that looks like and parents want them to have the full experience, but they don't want to have them just go to college out of their bedrooms. So, it is the confusion of trying to find out what works best for them? How are they going to take college tours? How are they going to find out more about colleges, all of this stuff? So, we're seeing that we just have to navigate that a little bit differently, just like all the adults are.

Randy Wilburn [15:12] As I'm sitting here hearing you say that, I'm thinking about an article I read recently in the Wall Street Journal about More 30 Somethings are moving back in with their parents. So, it's almost like young people are looking for that happy medium. And some can find it outside of the home if you will, and then others make their way back to the home to recalibrate, if you will, and figure out what their next steps are. I think it's just a very interesting time for young people specifically. I'm speaking not so much for millennials, but more the Gen Z, the young people that you're encountering that are just trying to figure it out. I think Gen Z is 98, 99 to 2012 or 13, somewhere around there. They are the first truly native digital generation. These kids are smart, to begin with. And sometimes they are a little distrusting of authority, so that's a real challenge that you guys have to overcome.

Beth Pittman [16:12] Yes, and everything is at their fingertips. So, if they're trying to find out some information, they will just YouTube it. There are college tours. They will follow

people at their colleges. They can find the information; it's at their fingertips. They're smart, they're resourceful, and they know what they want. That maturity level is not there yet, as we all know.

Randy Wilburn [16:39] I'm interested in finding out and I know a couple of your services you have on your website listed: Career Planning, Personal Branding, Resumes, Job Search & Interview Skills, Networking, Goals and Job Advancements, so you cover the gamut. I would be curious to know how you guys focus on the personal branding piece of it. Christie, if you want to, just share some of your thoughts on that. I would love to hear because I know how I deal with personal branding, but I want to know what you're saying to these 15, 16, and 17-year-olds about personal branding.

Christie Martin [17:09] Well, and to the best point, this generation is so tech-savvy. And we, as adults, feel like we are the experts in social media. And so, a lot of our conversations about personal branding focuses on how are you branding yourself online and how is that going to come across and portray you to the older generation; the ones that are hiring you and giving you an acceptance into a university and looking at you for a job promotion? First of all, we define personal branding for them: how the world sees them from an online standpoint, from an in-person first impression standpoint, and then from a networking mentor. How are you building yourself out of a standpoint, helping them see that big picture, and then helping them dig into all those different elements around you? What is your social media saying about you? What are you posting online? What's even online that you don't know is on there? How do you find those things out? How do you clean those things up before you bite during a job interview or a college interview or something like that? And then how do you start building a personal brand that you want to show someone in the situation. So, helping them to just think down the road a little bit and, and take some proactive steps to get things on a track that they want to be on and not get to where they're 25 trying to get a promotion at work and things are coming back to haunt them?

Beth Pittman [18:45] We also talk about how personal brands tie in with networking and how they don't realize that their friends of their parents’ could be the person they're going to hire. So how they're acting around their friend’s parents or their teachers at school, that may need to give them a referral, that is a brand as well. And so, they're not thinking about that. If they don't use manners, and we all know who our kids hang out with, if we're like, oh, that's a good kid and that's not a good kid; we know. If someone came into my office that was a friend of my kids that did not have good manners, I would talk to him about it. And so, building that personal brand, not just online, because I think a lot of them have learned, even though I snap, this is going to come back to me. I realized I snapped a picture and I've snapped it over and they're going to screenshot it. So, they're going the opposite and not posting a lot of stuff on their grid or whatever that looks like. So, they're trying to be more mindful of those things, but they're doing other stuff. You don't want to raise that punk kid, so we're talking to them about what that brand looks like as well.

Randy Wilburn [19:53] I honestly don't envy my kids because there's so much that they face that the three of us did not face growing up, you know what I'm saying? Kids can be downright mean nowadays. Before, it would just be a name; now, you become a meme, and then everybody in school has seen it. It is really rough. So, I would be curious to know, as you've gotten this Skills Lab Training program off the ground, and maybe you've talked to some of your peers around the country, is there anything unique that our kids being here in the Ozarks here in Northwest Arkansas are dealing with it, maybe they're not dealing with in other parts of the country?

Beth Pittman [20:40] We have a lot of resources available to us here in Northwest Arkansas. One from working with Fortune One companies where you're exposed to high-caliber people everywhere you turn. You have world-class museums. You have these great outdoors so we are really privileged to grow up in Northwest Arkansas. By talking to people in the area, you know how great this area is; our perfect little town. But that being said, a lot of stuff is right here at our fingertips. If you decide you want to go to U of A, you've got a whole Walton school there that's just so great. And then you flip that around, you drive four hours south, and you're in a different part of Arkansas that doesn't have all these great resources. And it's a more rural area, and you're finding that they're not worried about making the ACT. They’re worried about how their family is going to be fed next week. They're just trying to make enough money so their mom doesn't have to work four jobs. We are seeing that there are different things only in the State of Arkansas, and what we're finding is that we are exposed to a lot of resources. If you're trying to find a mentor, you will be able to find some really talented ones. Bentonville High School offers internships with the world's largest retailer, which is exciting and you do not see that everywhere you go. So, having a strong community, we're seeing more local organizations within communities trying to offer some training or some leadership classes. And again, we just go back to there's just not enough manpower, so we were trying to create a program that allowed us to get into schools, and to talk to those kids who maybe weren't planning on going to college, their parents didn't go to college, but yet they still need to get out and make a living. And what sets them apart from everybody else that's interviewing for that. And it could be they didn't chew gum at the interview, or they followed up with a thank you note or just some of those simple one on one things that we would take for granted. Christie, did you want to add anything?

Christie Martin [22:50] We were passionate about meeting kids where they're at and helping them discover their passions, interests and goals, not just being a college prep type of organization. So really realizing that there's a lot of different career paths out there. We have seen all the different career paths people can take, and the different roads to get there. And if college is not your bag right now, how can we help you be intentional about your path and what the plan looks like for you. And if it's college, a few years down the road, how can we help you use the time in between to be very intentional, whether that's additional skills you need, workforce training. How to enter the workforce with some skills and confidence under your belt? We try to meet students where they're at and to that point, you have seen just across the State, it's a wide variety.

Randy Wilburn [23:48] I think one of the things that we and this I believe is an issue that we struggle with within this country is that sometimes we don't place enough value on all the different opportunities that are out there. Because for a lot of young people, it's like, if I don't go to school, if I don't go to college, I am less than, and the same person that's looking at the trades, it's like, if I go to the trades, people are always going to be looking down on me. And I'm thinking, if you go to the trades, you could theoretically make way more money than anybody coming out of college ever would. If that was the bottom line of it, and just how much money you could make, I would be sending a lot of people to the trades. A challenge in this country we are facing is how to frame that conversation to get young people thinking about the bigger picture. When I lived in Boston, I worked with a guy who did some training and I would come in and talk and encourage young people. But he had many kids that they knew never wanted to go to college, but they wanted to work and wanted to work hard. They wanted to work with excellence. And he worked to train them on being sheet metal workers and welders because that's a valuable commodity from a trade perspective, and some of these kids came out of school after their basic training, making 40 and 50 bucks an hour, you can do the math and know it doesn't get any better than that. And many people will go through and matriculate through college and never make nearly that amount on an hourly basis. So, I tell young people to listen, the sky's the limit. And there are all kinds of opportunities available. Still, I tell them to get some proper training and get some proper mentoring because, without that, you're always going to be at a deficit when it comes to being prepared for what the future holds. So, I mean, I think what you guys are doing is, we need like, 50 Beth’s and 50 Christie's to do this work on a regular basis because I'm sure that every high school in the State would want you in there. Maybe not physically in there, but virtually meeting with their kids and encouraging them in having these conversations early and often because they're just not being had enough. And you brought up something earlier, Beth, about some of the challenges that many families face, not only here in Arkansas, but elsewhere of just struggling to survive. So, if I'm struggling to survive, the last thing I'm thinking about is preparing my kid for the future. I’m trying to deal with my future and that's the reality we're dealing with. There's a lot of work out there.

Beth Pittman [26:21] I think so, and I know the schools are doing everything they can. And going to a trade school or even going into the military, there are different paths for everybody. We know what that looks like in terms of people who have college degrees and what their income will be over a lifetime. We understand that most of the positions that we hire require degrees, so we know that's going to knock out several students, but they are still contributing at the end of the day. They can be very successful with their lives and careers, so we're trying to help them. We always use the example of if you're working at the coffee shop. Okay, you love working at the coffee shop. What’s the next step for you? Have you thought about managing the coffee shop? Have you thought about managing coffee shops? Have you thought about opening up your coffee shop? So, we continue to have those conversations? What do you like? What do you not like? Do you understand how the budget works? Do you know how inventory management works? There are steps to go through and we're happy to have whatever the conversation needs to happen through those things.

Christy Martin [27:28] Right, the steps to prepare for your career and your next job and advancement are the same whether you're coming out of college or coming out of high school. Whether you're trying to be the supervisor at the coffee shop or you're interviewing for a teaching position at a school. So, having a college degree or not, there are still these fundamental skills that students need to interview for their next job- beat out the competition, present themselves well and with confidence. And so, you can focus on those with every State in America and have a well-trained workforce. And that's what we hear from a lot of the employers, especially in Arkansas. We have been having conversations with various agencies that are interviewing the workforce and what they're looking for in hiring people. Their biggest need is for people who just present themselves well, who will come show up for their shifts. Who will make commitments and keep them when they accept a job? Who is ready and willing to take on the next stage in their career? To look at the supervisor position and they're trained and competent enough to do that. So, people need the fundamental skills, but what we hear from the workforce is more than that. They just want people who understand how to be a good employee and present themselves well to get the job and train them on pretty much anything from there.

Randy Wilburn [28:54] I think sometimes people just need to hear that because we take this assumption that common sense is common, but common sense is not as common as we think it is. One of the things that I've been fortunate is to interview a lot of small business owners here in the Northwest Arkansas community, especially restaurant owners, and I always relate to them my experience growing up waiting tables at a young age. Being able to serve alcohol even before I was legally able to back in New Jersey back in the day, I don't think they monitored that. But anyway, I learned some skills at a young age at 14 and 15 of waiting tables, working with customers, and understanding the whole mindset behind selling food and upselling. There were just so many little life lessons that I learned throughout that process. By the time I got to college and I waited tables, I was killing it. I told my kids I want all of you guys to wait tables because I think it teaches some special life lessons about understanding the value you bring to the situation. Because I knew if I can sell $2,000, $2,500 worth of food at night, then I bring value to the equation and it's not just I'm just checking in and checking out at the end of the night, no, I'm bringing value to this restaurant owner and if it's reciprocated, it works out. I think young people need to understand that there is a direct correlation between what they bring to the table and what ultimately comes back to them.

Christy Martin [30:29] And I think it's having those experiences as you did that help you to see that direct correlation. And it allows you to see my buddy working the other part of the restaurant is killing it, and he is making so much money, and how is he doing that? I need to imitate some of those things that I'm seeing. If I do that same thing, it results in more money for me at the end of the night. And so, if students are not having those experiences early and often, and you can get those through employment, you can also get them through volunteering, you can get them through job shadowing, and having great mentors. Those are things that we tout with our clients all the time. There are free ways to get those kinds of experiences. It’s not just having a job that can show you those values. And, how do I capitalize on those when it's the most important?

Randy Wilburn [31:20] You are right about that. It's the R-word that I always use, which is relationships, and I try to teach my sons more often than not. I apologize for co-opting this interview, but relationships are so important. Young people need to understand and one of the things that I drive home to my kids every day is what relationships did you build today, I explained to them that they need to have strong relationships with their teachers, not that they necessarily need to love them, because you guys growing up didn't love all your teachers, but they were some that you liked. That relationship is important because they control several things, and while you study and work hard, you still need help from them. And it's the same thing in everything that we do. So even if you're not working a job where you're working and getting paid, even if you're volunteering your time and effort, you're building a relationship with someone that could eventually take your ability to work with them, even if it's for free, and leverage that and say, I like the way Sue worked with me. I like the way Bob worked with me. I want to offer them something else. And a lot of times, young people specifically don't always connect those dots. And I think it's important, and you guys probably do a really good job of helping young people connect that dot because those, to me, are the little things that pay off in the long run. And you start earning that equity, that sweat equity that manifests itself and a lot of new opportunities that would have never come your way had people not seeing you put your best foot forward, even if there wasn't pay on the line.

Christy Martin [32:56] Exactly. And then the relationships and those experiences as well, we often help them see the value of the experiences they like and don't like. So, take stock of those experiences you're getting that you just did not jive with. And whether I want to work behind a desk, or I hate to work behind a desk, I need to work out on a floor with people where I'm moving around all the time. So, all those things are valuable, and they all mold into what makes you tick, what makes you happy, and how that translates to a career. And so, we draw the big spiderweb together in the center for them of all those experiences and relationships and things that they've seen throughout their high school and college years? How do you make that work for you the best so that it results in something lifelong for you and not someone who's sitting in our office that 45 that just wants to restart, and go back to that passion that they always knew they had, but they just followed with a career that was easy in front of them?

Randy Wilburn [34:04] Well, that's even a different type of consulting or encouragement for people that hit a midlife crisis because that's another ball of wax there. Young people have to know that this is not a one-and-done type thing. If you prepare yourself now, you may still have to go through this later in life and there's nothing wrong with that; it’s the evolution of life. We are continually iterating and getting better and figuring things out. And even at 51, I'm figuring some things out that you figure all well you're 50 plus, you've got it all figured out. There's no 50-year-old out there that says they have it all figured out. So, I say that to the young people because, if nothing else, that should give them an ability to exhale a little bit and say, okay, this old dude hasn’t quite figured it out, then maybe there's hope for me, right? I think that's just the reality. So listen, Beth, Christie, if I'm a parent listening to this episode and I'm thinking, I need to have Beth and Christie talk to my daughter, talk to my son or talk to their class or whatever, what's the best way for people to connect with you and how does that currently work right now, given everything else that's going on?

Christie Martin [35:19] The best way to connect with us initially is to go to our website, and you will find our contact information there to reach out to us via phone or email. And social media is also a great way to connect with us. We are very active on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and just posting a lot of great tips. So, if you think this is something I want to keep in the back of my brain when my kid is a few years down the road as a junior or senior in high school, maybe it's a little too early for your child right now, then follow us on social media, there's a ton of great tips that we put on there all the time. Information can start getting your brain moving in a certain direction and just helping you as a parent. We tailor a lot of stuff for parents out there and so that's a great way to connect with us and just keep us on your radar, and start to educate yourself as well. And then we are always very happy to talk with parents and our students about your needs? How can we tailor something that will be the best for your student, and we don't want to be intimidating at all? We want this to be just a great open coffee conversation with people and make it as comfortable as possible. So, we welcome you to reach out to us and we'll be happy to talk about the specific.

Randy Wilburn [36:35] You guys also have a high school and college newsletter that people can sign up for on your website, so I want to encourage anybody listening to go to and sign up for their newsletter because that will at least keep you up to date on everything they're doing because it could be beneficial for you.

Christie Martin [36:56} Lots of great tips come out in there every month, so we appreciate that. We feel like it's a lot of good stuff, whether you have kids in their early teens or getting someone about to graduate from college or a grandchild even going to graduate from college or high school. You’re thinking, what can I do for them that would just be a lifelong pursuit or gift for them, rather than a variety of other things that you could be racking your brain. So definitely take a look at us whether you're a parent, a student and grandparents. We are happy to help.

Randy Wilburn [37:27] So last but not least, because I would be remiss if I didn't bring this up, but we are in Northwest Arkansas. I mean, when you're not encouraging the next generation of young people to go out and be the best version of themselves, how do you guys have fun, both Beth and Christie. It might be a favorite watering hole, a favorite restaurant, something you would like to do here in Northwest Arkansas that's unique to the Ozarks?

Christie Martin [37:53] Well, I’m a native of Northwest Arkansas, so I was born and raised here and have been here my entire life. I love Northwest Arkansas, and I've seen it grow over the decades. One of my favorite things to do is I love the outdoors, so we love camping. I frequent the State Parks in this area during the spring and summer and fall, so I love camping, hiking, and recently getting into fishing a little bit with my kids.

Randy Wilburn [38:25] Have you ever hiked or camped in Devil's Den?

Christie Martin 38:28] I did just a couple of weeks ago.

Randy Wilburn [38:30] Great, awesome. How about you Beth?

Beth Pittman [38:33] Well, my kids are a little bit older than Christie's now so they're right in the middle of sports. I've got one who plays volleyball and the other one who plays hockey. So, we are constantly doing that in Northwest Arkansas, but our favorite thing to do as a family is to try new restaurants. And so, we've been out and about trying new places besides the outdoor activities.

Randy Wilburn [38:56] Well, I'm going to put you on the spot. What's the one restaurant that you've been back to a few times since the start of the pandemic because you enjoy the food?

Beth Pittman [39:03] Well, we haven't been going out very often since the start of the pandemic. We tried this new fried chicken place this weekend that we will be going back to, William Soulfood. I don't know if you've tried that. It's in Bentonville, it is so good. I see many trips in our future for that.

Randy Wilburn [39:22] That's awesome. We haven't been going out to eat a whole lot but we have gotten comfortable with takeout. Everything is takeout.

Beth Pittman [39:33] It's our favorite thing.

Randy Wilburn [39:34] So I think there's so much to offer here from a culinary standpoint, in Northwest Arkansas. Many people don't realize that, but I think it's one of our best-kept secrets. So well, thank you guys so much for coming on the podcast and just sharing with us your heart and what you're trying to do to change the next generation. Not so much to change them but more to encourage them. I always tell my son, you're going to be who you are but I want you to be the best version of that and I think you guys are doing a great job during that. So, if anybody listening to this is not from this area but moving here, just know that there are many opportunities here to continue developing and molding your young people if you're bringing them here with you to relocate to Northwest Arkansas. If you're already here, please look up Beth and Christie and check them out. Tell them that you heard about them first on the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast, and guys, we appreciate having you on. Thank you so much.

Beth Pittman [40:27] Thank you so much. I appreciate you helping us.

Randy Wilburn [40:30] Well folks, that's another episode of The I Am Northwest Arkansas podcast. To learn more about us or read or download the Show Notes from today's episode, visit You can listen to this podcast or sign up free for our free newsletter to keep up with us in all things NWA. Sign up today. You can also subscribe to the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast wherever you listen to your podcast. And please consider rating and reviewing us on the Apple podcast. Our podcast does come out every Monday, so we encourage you to check it out. I'm your host Randy Wilburn, we will see you back here next week for a new episode of the Northwest Arkansas podcast. Peace.

IANWA Open [41:14] We hope you enjoyed this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcasts can be found. For Show Notes or more information on becoming a guest, visit We will see you next week on I am Northwest Arkansas.

About the Show: 

We sat down with Beth Pittman and Christie Martin the founders of Skills Lab Training in Bentonville to discuss how they are preparing the next generation for jobs and general employment readiness.

All of this and more on this podcast episode. 

Important Links and Mentions on the Show*:

This episode is sponsored by*:

The Exclusive Real Estate Group – Serving all of Northwest Arkansas from Dickson St. to Bentonville Square, Broker Chris Dinwiddie and his agents are ready to provide first-class representation for any of your real estate needs. 

Chris’ team has expanded to include in house designers and architects.  They can facilitate everything from design services to turnkey new construction.  Click Here to contact them, and be sure to mention that you heard about them from IANWA. 

Or, if you need to move quickly, call Chris directly on his cell at 479-305-0468 and mention that you heard about him here on the podcast. 

Build Your Perfect Business with Next Level 7 – If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business or giving your current business a real tune-up, you need to check out Next Level 7 and take some lessons from the master, Brian Clark. Brian has built not one but two 8-figure businesses from scratch – and sold them! 

We use Brian’s training here at I am Northwest Arkansas, and it has transformed how we do business.  Get the FREE Course today! Or visit

Be a part of the Entrepreneurial Movement here in the Ozarks. 

Email to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.

*Note: some of the resources mentioned may be affiliate links. This means we get paid a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Connect more with I am Northwest Arkansas:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast. We showcase businesses, culture, entrepreneurship, and everyday people’s lives, making Northwest Arkansas what it is today. Please consider making a one-time donation to our production team through PayPal to help with the expenses of keeping this podcast running smoothly