Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is committed to helping develop the regional workforce by fostering connections between businesses and local students. Part of that commitment includes managing Youth CareerConnect (YCC), a regional initiative that provides career services and internship opportunities for high school, college and alternative school students.
Since its inception in 2017, YCC has placed over 540 interns across more than 360 Central Oregon businesses. This school year the program has seen a 300% increase in year-over-year engagement numbers, a testament to the effectiveness of the program and thanks to community partners driving awareness.
For students, YCC offers invaluable ‘real-world’ work experience that cannot be simulated in a classroom setting. Iris Lawson, a double-major in Math and Business at OSU-Cascades, started her internship at Farewell Media earlier this semester. After working in various customer service and food industry positions, she applied for an internship to gain professional experiences in her fields of study.
“One of my first projects was helping develop Standard Operating Procedures for Farewell Media, rewriting every instruction on how to develop a website. I’ve learned so much along the way about how to work and communicate in a professional environment. Now my title is Project Manager, and I can apply so many of these skills wherever I go in the future,” explained Lawson.
EDCO employs YCC Internship Coordinators who host weekly office hours at schools across the region, including COCC and the school districts of Jefferson County, Bend-La Pine and Redmond. These Internship Coordinators assist students in identifying professional goals, developing resumes, training for interviews, and matching them with the right opportunity.
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Farewell Media, joined the YCC program as one of the companies offering an internship this year. Farewell Media designs, develops and maintains websites for clients across the region. Watkins’ first intern, Iris Lawson, developed onboarding processes that allowed Farewell Media to bring on an additional three interns who will each be managed by Lawson.
“Iris brought an operational skillset that really expanded our capacity and has been able to take on a client management role. Now we are hosting additional interns that are each helping with specific areas such as content writing, design and marketing our company,” said Watkins.
Another internship host, Highland Veterinary Hospital, also found immediate and long-term organizational benefits from hosting an intern. Andrea White, a receptionist at the clinic, spoke about how their intern, Kayleen Galvan, reinvigorated their culture. “Kayleen came in with such a strong curiosity to learn. It was like a breath of fresh air for the team,” said White.
Youth CareerConnect Regional Managing Director Larry Holeman says, “We’re grateful to East Cascades Works and all our community partners for allowing us to do this work. YCC offers a platform to introduce students to local workforce opportunities and in turn, we are supporting local employers in developing the workforce of the future.”
“We want to make sure Central Oregon students know there are jobs here. They can stay and work in Central Oregon,” explained Brenda Jones, HR Manager at Keith Manufacturing in Madras. Keith Manufacturing has partnered with YCC since its inception and has been a longtime supporter in bringing trades education back into schools.
Jones continued, “We want to introduce students to a variety of opportunities – welding, machining, CAD, marketing, and business operations. We’ve sent our employees into schools and brought in students to teach them about what we do. We offer scholarship opportunities around robotics and engineering. We want to engage students and make sure they know about the variety of employment opportunities available.”
Central Oregon employers looking to get involved in the program can create a profile at youthcareerconnect.org.