Lydia Valenti
The Redmond Spokesman

Jesus Nunez is making plans for the future — architecture and design software are his main interests, he said.

The Redmond High student was one of more than 550 high school students who attended a recent skilled trade fair at COCC’s Redmond Campus. He was excited to learn from experienced tradespeople.

“Today’s been magnificent,” Nunez said.

“We even got in the excavator,” he said, referring to a hands-on exhibit Papé brought for students to try.

The trade fair brought together students from The Dalles to Gilchrist and Sisters to Prineville, and more than 30 companies or groups representing skilled trades as diverse as aerospace and aesthetics, said Tracy Willson-Scott, of Central Oregon STEM Hub, which organized the event. From medical fields to construction and automotive to military, fields that sidestep a four-year college were represented.

The common denominator among the students attending the skilled trade fair is an interest in working with their hands, Nunez said.

“We all find the field of construction or tinkering around with some sort of electronic fun — and the thought of doing that for a job kind of intrigued us.”

Nunez is interested in design software such as Pro-CAD and SolidWorks, which he said a teacher told him would give him an easier entry point for employment.

Nunez was interested in checking out the apprenticeship options represented at the fair, he said.

Apprenticeships have been ignored in schools for much of the past 20 years, said Lou Long, apprenticeship administrator at NW Apprenticeship Services LLC, but are still the main avenue to becoming certified for some trade jobs, such as plumbing and electric work.

The trade fair was the best interaction Long has had with students in recent years, she said.

Long, who has been in the business 23 years, has only been able to talk with students in schools the last several years. She came away from the Nov. 16 trade fair with at least three names of students who were interested in becoming apprentices after high school.

Internships are another avenue to employment that was featured at the fair.

Boeing had a table at the skilled trades fair. Kyle Pompa, program coordinator for IAM/Boeing Joint Programs, was talking with students about its three—year internship program for high school students.

The program runs for about four weeks each summer and students can begin their junior year — designing and manufacturing a hammer their first year, and other projects in the years after.

Pompa found that most students are told to go to college — because academic success is such a focus — and are not aware that there are many high paying jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree. He said many of their employees came to them through their high school internship program. Interns are also mentored in soft skills, such as resume writing, interviewing and teamwork, he said, which helps them be successful in the workplace.

Caleb Quinn, a Redmond High student, said he was surprised to learn how many more career opportunities there are than he thought.

“Even something that may seem simple, there are a lot of branches associated with it. It’s just a big giant tree,” he said.

Quinn is interested in working in the automotive industry, and said he wants work that is both mental and physical.

“This is actually a pretty big day for pretty much all of us,” he said. “We all have interest in working with our hands.”

At the COCC medical assisting program table, Bonnie Criswell, an instructor in the school’s certificate program, was talking with students interested in medical assisting about the importance of in—depth training.

“It’s medical assistants who are running most of the day to day operations of a clinic,” Criswell said.

Many clinics offer on the job training, she said, but they aren’t able to give the intensive education that students in a formal training program receive.

COCC’s program currently has only 12 students enrolled in the program, which Criswell said was reflective of the economy.

“The economy is high right now, so enrollment is low,” she said

— Reporter: 541-548-2185, lvalenti@redmondspokesman.com

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