Three Ways Your Company Can Support Youth to College and Career

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

There is an old song called “Both Sides Now” that makes me think of my role at Silicon Forest Electronics and my involvement on the Ambassador Council with Gateway to College National Network. In this role, I’m fortunate to see a contrast of opportunity from “both sides”. My business supports the aerospace industry, where more than 30% of the workforce is over the age of 55. When you consider the continued growth of aerospace and the emerging demand of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, significant employment opportunities for youth are available. We need to work together to help these young people become aware of and excited about career opportunities in the industry!   

In my work with Gateway to College National Network and the Gateway program at Portland Community College, a few simple steps have helped us develop a closer to tie to our future workforce. Here are three ways that your company can also help make that happen:

1 – Invite youth into your operations to see how things are made

As industry leaders, we should all accept the challenge to show youth what is possible, invite them into our operations to see how things are made. Many of them may not have visited the inside of a real manufacturing operation, and may have misconceptions about “manufacturing”. When they get to see the level of automation and technology they get excited! Likewise, seeing the diversity of people in your company gives allows them to visualize how they might be a part of something bigger.

2 - Get out into the community and schools - share what you do

At Silicon Forest Electronics, we regularly visit schools, both middle schools and high schools, to participate in mock interviews, give presentations about aircraft and unmanned systems, and to give students a glimpse into our careers. The exchange process is wonderful – the students are eager to see “cool stuff” first hand and our employees get to make an impact by sharing why and how they got into their careers.

3 - Stimulate and encourage more apprenticeships and internships

We have two paid internships annually (6 months each) and we recently had our first high school intern. There are great community partners in Oregon & Washington who can help coordinate internships. We believe that there are even greater opportunities to develop internships and reduce barriers for at-risk youth to obtain internships while going to school. We just need to connect and get creative!

By making a greater, seamless connection between industry and education, our youth can visualize themselves in future roles that build upon their unique skill sets, a benefit to “both sides”. Get involved with organizations like Gateway to College National Network – invest your time as an employer in councils, boards and committees in your local and regional organizations. Your investment will help our youth develop as individuals and support our overall economic growth with a thriving workforce!

Oregon: Opportunity Youth and Graduation Rates

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