Local youths will get to explore employment opportunities with career days, tours and more

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Students work in the Reynolds High School shop. The new Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce program, in partnership with local schools, is designed to expand students knowledge of careers. The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce is about to launch a new program that will give local students career-related experiences.

"It's a really big thing," said Lynn Snodgrass, the chamber's CEO.

The new Career Linked Learning Program will coordinate with business, schools and community partners to develop career-related learning experiences for students from Gresham-Barlow, Centennial, Reynolds school districts, along with Mt. Hood Community College. The city of Gresham is also involved.

"What we're doing is elevating the potential for kids' future in our community, and that benefits everyone," Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass is in the middle of interviewing candidates for the new program's director's position, which will pay between $65,000 and $70,000, depending on experience.

The program will be under the umbrella of the Chamber, but the funding for the new program will come from the school districts.

The Career Linked program has no specific start date yet.

"There are a lot of foundational things that have to happen first — marketing, getting the information out to businesses," Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass added that the idea was hatched by Gresham-Barlow Superintendent Katrise Perera and discussed over lunch at Gresham's

Because of the chamber's connections with businesses and understanding of how they work, it seemed appropriate to have the chamber oversee the new program.

"I'm excited about this new position, which will help provide new, real-world learning opportunities for students and allow us to strengthen our partnerships with local businesses," Perera said via email.

Snodgrass said the program should draw families to East Multnomah County schools.

"We want to make this program desirable so that students will want to come to our school districts," she said.

The program's focus is to promote engagement, help students explore career pathways and develop career plans that meet the needs of every student, with a focus on the "historically underserved and traditionally marginalized."

Snodgrass said there is no exact plan for what that will look like. There could be career fairs, career days, internships, tours of businesses and other activities.

The program will complement the career and technical education programs already in place in all three districts.

Reynolds High School, for example, offers classes in HVAC fundamentals, culinary arts and hospitality and other disciplines. Centennial High offers accounting, business classes and metals, among other fields.

Gresham High's offerings include automotive technology and early childhood education, and Barlow has classes in manufacturing and construction technology and others.

The chamber and the districts will plan carefully to engage both the students and businesses in the new program.

"In order to be successful, we need to do this right," Snodgrass said.

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