Skilled trades fair shows college not for all

6000 high school students from across the Portland metro area face-to-face with employers

(KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — For a growing number of kids, school ends at age 18 and a life of work begins.

College still has advantages, but the rising cost of college education has put it out of reach for many high schoolers. Not going to college doesn’t have to mean a low paying job.

There is more work available than you might think even if college isn’t in your kids’ plans.

The idea behind career fairs like the NW Youth Careers Expo is to capture a kid’s interest, to spark a fire or help create a career passion, with no college required.

As she worked her way through Gunderson Incorporated’s demonstration, Deazhane Carter discovered things she’s passionate about.

Welding is one of them.

“It just excites me so much, I love it so much,” Carter told KOIN 6 News. “You don’t even understand. I go to Benson, so we have welding as a major. It just excites me.”

Those are magical words to hear from the mouth of a high school student if you’re a parent or a career counselor.

Gunderson Incorporated is a locally-owned builder of rail cars and ocean-going barges.  They hired 10 students who came to the NW Youth Career Expo last year and they’re still hiring.

“To come to an event like this is very important,” said Jeff Powell, the superintendent for Gunderson Welt Tech and Training. “They come through, they get their first shot at welding and as you can see (it) strikes a lot of interest. And from there, they seek their futures.”

generic screwdriver 03172015Entry-level trainees make about $12 an hour, but accomplished welders can make $30 an hour.

Careers without college doesn’t have the stigma it once may have had.

Welding, health care and construction trades are thriving, giving more people access to middle class wages without diving into tens of thousands of dollars of college student aid debt.

“I think an event like this is a recognition that there are skilled jobs that require  training and experiences that you can only get in the trades,” JR Gustafson of the Portland Workforce Alliance said.

The career expo was put on by the Portland Workforce Alliance. They have other similar events, including a Microsoft Career Day next month, plus other helpful things for both employers and students.

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