With over 550 students in attendance and 120 industry partners, the Central Oregon Skilled Trades Fair was a success again this year. This was the 3rd Annual Skilled Trades Fair organized by the Central Oregon STEM Hub. It takes place on the Redmond Tech Campus of Central Oregon Community College (COCC). The Skilled Trades Fair is not an ordinary career fair. The event focuses on career exploration in a way that exposes youth to a day in the life of many of the local industries, especially the trades. Instead of networking at tables, students engage in hands on activities led by local industry partners.  In a time where much of our youth feel pressured to go to a 4-year college as a measurement of future success, the Skilled Trades Fair allows them to explore careers through a lens of various pathways and many successful options that will lend them to contributing to local workforce.

Students gained experiences like welding, making chocolate dipped strawberries, operating an excavator through an obstacle course, and putting on work gear from a variety of industry segments. The trades fair gave them the chance to start building relationships with local area industry partners. Students left feeling excited and inspired to continue to explore career opportunities.

This model of a exploration-based career fair has been replicated in the natural resource and allied health fields, and these events continue to grow and expand. It has become an agile process where adults learn from the students and students learn about potential options of the future through various pathways. Continuing to encourage and promote these regional high wage, high demand jobs, changes the perceptions of trades programs, increases potential internship opportunities, and helps meet the demands of our regional workforce – all of which  fosters economic growth in our local communities.