PENDLETON — Heading into its fourth year, the Schools to Careers program is continuing its expansion.
Originally founded as a partnership between Eastern Oregon Business Source and the Pendleton School District, the job and career training program has since expanded to Pilot Rock and Athena-Weston with an increased focus on Nixyaawii Community School.
Eastern Oregon Business Source President Susan Bower now has three staff members — community development coordinators Nick Nash, Jane Waldher, and Karen Willis — to help run the program.
With increased investment has come more participation in the program. According to Bower, the number of students put in work placement doubled from more than 40 in the first year to 95 last year.
Bower said job placements and work shadows are critical for either confirming a student’s career path, or warding them off from careers they may not want after gaining more familiarity.
Bower said she experienced that herself at a young age when she shadowed a dentist.
“I spent two days with a dentist and I changed my mind,” she said.
This year will be spent building on Schools to Careers’ core concept.
Organizers want to spend more time doing “virtual job shadows,” where Schools to Careers will connect students with professionals remotely through video chat software for careers where there aren’t a lot of local opportunities for job shadows or placements.
Schools to Careers is also starting a paid internship program. In partnership with Umatilla County, many students will get internships with county government, although Bower said there are businesses and organizations that will have internship opportunities.
To better connect students with opportunities, Schools to Careers will also spend the year integrating a software system that both sides can access.
Schools to Careers is also revamping its career day at Pendleton High School this year.
Along with the usual keynote speaker and career path panels, the second half of the day will take local high school students to the Pendleton Convention Center for a job fair, where they can make in-person connections with potential employers.
Eastern Oregon Business Source’s contract runs through June 2020, and long term, Bower said she would like to pull back some of the boots on the ground at Pendleton High School.
As school staff takes on more duties from Eastern Oregon Business Source, Bower said her company’s involvement will mostly act as a liaison between local businesses and school districts. Bower said something similar already happened with the Milton-Freewater Unified School District, which now manages its own program after some initial help from Schools to Careers.