The Employee Pipeline Project set modest goals for itself in its first year and largely met them.

A collaboration between Eastern Oregon Business Source, the Pendleton School District and Umatilla County, Employee Pipeline officials gave a progress report to the organizations involved with the project’s inaugural year.

An offshoot of the Schools to Careers program, the Employee Pipeline’s stated goal was to place five Pendleton high school students in career-track jobs by the end of the school year.

Employee Pipeline coordinator Bonnie Day said four students were placed at local jobs while six more had serious leads on future positions. The four students found work at well-known employers: the Pendleton Fire Department, St. Anthony Hospital, Sign Men, and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Overall, the program engaged more than 40 seniors and helped connect them with more than 90 internships, job shadows, mentorship meetings and tours.

The Employee Pipeline team also learned a lot on what worked and what didn’t in a year Schools to Careers coordinator Christina van der Kamp called the “pre-beta” stage.

Pipeline officials found that meeting with students one-on-one several times throughout the year kept kids engaged with the program.

They also experienced more success when potential employers were flexible, whether it was sending human resources representatives directly to the school to talk to students, working with students to accommodate their school schedule or holding a job until after graduation.

But staff also saw areas where they could improve.

While Employee Pipeline worked with more than 40 students, Day said many students fell off after a while because they lost interest or stopped communicating.

The program also sometimes struggled to set up kids with employers eager to bring students in.

Wildhorse Resort & Casino was enthusiastic about Employee Pipeline, but it was often difficult to find transportation to send a student to Mission.

Interpath Laboratory was also a willing participant, but the program had trouble preparing students to work there.

While internships at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range are complemented by Pendleton High School’s robotics program, there isn’t an equivalent class for medical lab work.

Susan Bower, the director of Eastern Oregon Business Source, said van der Kamp and Day spent a significant amount of time going over job search basics like filling out an application or requesting a Social Security number.

Bower said she went into the program thinking every child had an adult role model who demonstrated good work practices.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “They don’t.”

Bower said Employee Pipeline is working with the Pendleton School District to better integrate career readiness into school curriculum.

After some modest success in year one, Employee Pipeline will have time to build on it.

Eastern Oregon Business Source recently secured a $100,000 grant from the Pendleton School District to continue running Schools to Careers and Employee Pipeline for the next two years, and it’s expanding those services into Pilot Rock and Athena-Weston.

Van der Kamp said Employee Pipeline plans to introduce software next school year where students can create and post resumes and employers can post jobs.

With operations expanding, Bower said she will hire a new part-time staff member to help run the programs.

Bower said Schools to Careers and Employee Pipeline won’t achieve all of its goals in its first year or second year, but eventually they will have a “greater impact on society.”

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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