What exactly is a Jobs Club?

Three years ago, the transition specialists in rural Oregon struggled to help their students learn more about different kinds of jobs. Learning about a variety of industries is important for students with diverse abilities, so they can find the best fit for their skills and personalities. But in rural areas, businesses are spread far apart, making it a challenge for students get different job experiences. Lon Thornburg, Transition Network Facilitator for Region 8, found a way to change this situation by creating a Jobs Club. A Jobs Club organizes field trips for transition students from schools across a wide region. Together the students tour job sites and businesses, and learn about different jobs. These visits also allow employers to meet the students, and to see the potential for hiring reliable, hard-working employees.

Touring Businesses From Hangers to Hospitals

Thornburg began the Jobs Club three years ago. In that time, they’ve toured businesses that range from manufacturing to healthcare to US Forest Service sites. The field trips can be more than a simple visit—often the students form relationships with the people they meet. During an aviation-themed visit to Harney County, for example, a Fed-Ex pilot surprised the students with a tour of his plane. He spent time chatting with students about the challenges he had to face as he became a pilot.

“These visits are also an opportunity for students to advocate for themselves,” said Thornberg. “Meeting our kids breaks down stereotypes the employers might have.”

Some Job Club field trips have ended up with students finding new jobs. As an example, he described a Job Club tour of a home building site. One student spoke with the foreman about working for the company, and the student was hired soon after the visit.

Thornburg has plans to expand the Jobs Club. In addition to the field trips, he’s working on independent living fairs. These events bring together resources on banking, using cell phones, and housing. He’s also interested in helping more Job Clubs start up around the state of Oregon.

Job Clubs are a fun way to bring together transition students scattered across rural areas, and expose them to new job opportunities.

For people interested in starting a Jobs Club in their region, here are four steps to help get started:

1.

Download the Job Clubs Handbook from the Transition Network Region 8 blog.  Here you’ll find everything needed to get rolling on your first field trip, from planning forms to permission slips. There’s no need to start from scratch!

2.

Contact the Employment First team in your region. Job Club field trips involve a good amount of coordination. The Employment First team has the tools to help with each step along the way.

3.

Families can help by thinking through their own network of nearby business. They can introduce the idea of Job Club visits to businesses that may be interested, and then work with the Job Club team to make the connection. The Job Club blog has lots of ideas for businesses to visit.

4.

Ask the students what businesses they want to visit. The Job Club Handbook includes student surveys that help identify themes that students find most interesting. Creating field trips around these themes makes the visits more successful for everyone!