The Southern Oregon Trade Career Expo

Where might you find a marine, a bulldozer, a geologist, and a transition student all in the same place?

If you were part of the Southern Oregon Trade Careers Expo, you’d have seen all those folks, and many more. The expo was held on September 28th at the Seven Feathers Convention Center in Canyonville, Oregon. More than a jobs fair, the expo served to introduce high school students and transition students to a wide range of trade and industrial careers.

“This career expo is such an eye-opener for our students. They see so many new opportunities for what can happen after graduation. These are great options that pay a living wage, but do not require a college degree,” said Darci Shivers, transition network facilitator for Douglas, Coos, and Curry Counties. Shivers made sure that transition students from all across Southern Oregon had the opportunity to attend the expo.

 

Empowering the Possible

The expo’s slogan, Empower the Possible, came to life inside the convention center. Tables and booths filled the building, each representing a career field or a business where interested students could find their next opportunity. Businesses ranged from manufacturers like Amy’s, an organic frozen food company in Medford, to construction materials, like Knife River. Students could stop at booths for trade schools, like the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute to talk about the apprenticeship programs they offer.

Every branch of the military hosted a booth as well, along with utility companies, forestry agencies, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT.) Outside, tents and large equipment covered the grounds—including large commercial trucks and engines to check out. As Shivers noticed, the most popular display was a real backhoe that students could climb into and operate.

Shivers checked in with several transition students as they toured the expo. A couple of students loved a virtual reality activity offered at a booth, another student appreciated talking with the booth for Oregon Institute of Technology. One student captured what many were feeling when she said, “I don’t really know what I want to do, so it’s pretty cool to see all these different jobs that I never even thought of before.”

 

The expo that’s not just for students

The morning session at the expo was reserved for students, giving them time to explore new ideas for future jobs. During the afternoon, the expo opened to veterans and the general public who might be interested. Businesses and agencies benefited as well, by connecting with potential new employees, which they need to keep their work flowing smoothly. Just as importantly, they connected with the transition teachers and Youth Transition Program (YTP) specialists who brought their students to the expo.

“This was the third SOTC Expo, and each time it’s been a fantastic way to network with local employers. This group of employers is an important resource for YTP and transition teachers who are looking for work experiences for their students,” said Shivers. Many of the employers she met at previous SOTC Expos have since participated in Employment First job fairs in Southern Oregon.

Networking at the SOTC Expo gives her the chance to approach potential employers about working with transition students. “I tell them about our students, who have some barriers that they’d never notice and some that they would. I tell them about how we support these students. And that our students are highly motivated—they’re not just passing time. They want to learn the job and do it right,” she said.

The next SOTC Expo is scheduled to take place in September of 2023.