As June began to wind down in the Willamette Valley, the Mid-Valley STEM-CTE Hub geared up for the first of three rounds of their flagship professional development program, Educator Externships. The eight educators from the far reaches of Linn and Benton counties came together to visit the facilities of four unique industry leaders and learn about the career opportunities they offer.

Students can often rattle off a short list of stereotypical career pathways like doctor, lawyer, garbage collector, YouTube personality, or tattoo artist. While these are all viable options for the right candidates, they may not be a good fit for all, leaving students feeling unnecessarily stuck when considering their plans post-high school.

The Educator Externships program aims to help correct this problem by bringing educators in to learn about lesser-known career options and what it takes to obtain entry-level jobs in these fields. In this first session, educators visited large employers like Knife River’s Training Center and were able to find out what students would need to obtain a job in their multi-state construction empire as well as see firsthand where their students would be able to learn the skills necessary to climb the company ladder. The Institute for Applied Ecology, a local lab facility that grows and preserves seeds of regionally endangered species and pollinator habitats, a smaller niche employer, was also featured to illustrate the diverse range of options available to the up-and-coming workforce.

“This program allows educators to understand the employability skills that business and industry are looking for when hiring so that they can incorporate time in their curriculum for students to practice these skills in the classroom, ” said Kelsie Szeszulski, one of the Hub’s program coordinators who is co-facilitating the externships program with Education Outreach and Equity Specialist, Dominga Sanchez.

The educators participating were given hands-on opportunities to learn about the skills and duties of people working in the field. For example, when visiting the Central Electrical Training Center educators were given a personal lesson in pipe bending. Additionally, the educators used their Q&A time with industry professionals to inquire about the requirements for entry-level positions in these career pathways so they could share the information with students and create lesson plans around the employability skills necessary for success.

“Without this opportunity, I would have never known about these career options for my students,” said Molly Schulz, an educator in the Philomath school district. “What’s really great is the ease of access I have to continued career resources by building a relationship with the Hub through this program. If I have any questions I know I can email the Hub and get the answers I need.”

The externship program has two more sessions over summer break where educators will be visiting a number of other regional industry powerhouses including Entek, Western States Carpenters Apprenticeship Training Center, Calapooia Brewing, and Softstar Shoes.