BEND, OR -- The Youth Career Connect Initiative is a system designed to help area high schoolers and college students find internships that will prepare them for their post-education careers.
Katie Condit, of Bend's Better Together, says this new internship system coordinates area agencies to create meaningful internships between students and employers, complete with mentorship opportunities. "Our local Chambers of Commerce become that centralized coordination place for employers and educators to be connecting. It ensures that the experiences that employers create are as meaningful as they can be for youth because they have that coach, and support, and expertise in the Chamber, and that educators don't have to phone dozens of employers to place one student, but that they have a central place to go, also."
Condit says that, unlike several years ago, only 20% of school students are working, as opposed to a previous 60%, leaving the vast majority ill prepared for their careers once they do leave school. "If you ask a classroom, 'How many of you have had a meaningful work experience?' It's 20 to 30% who will raise their hands, which is very different from 60+% of even 15 years ago. And what we're hearing from employers is even students graduating from college who are coming to them underprepared with some of those soft skills that you get in some of those first work experiences.
Other partners in the Youth Connect Initiative include local school Districts, COCC and OSU Cascades ... as well as the East Cascades Workforce Investment Board and area non-profits.
The new Youth Career Connect Initiative is designed to help area high school and college students find internships because employers expect some level of inexperience with a first-time employee. Condit says local employers report even college graduates lack necessary skills and she hopes Career Connect can change that. "I think the most important and critical piece of this work is that we're not building another program. We have tons of programs in Central Oregon. This is building, really, a region-wide system to help those programs and employers connect in a more streamlined way, and so it's value-add for economic development, and value-added for youth development, and we see it! We see it as a really sustainable system."
To learn more, visit youthcareerconnect.org.