OTHELLO — The inaugural Othello Career Showcase held in the gymnasium at Othello High School recently was a huge success. Organizers and business vendors alike were pleased with the turnout and responses received from the 1,500 students who got a first hand look at what the local job market has to offer.
“I was thrilled, overwhelmed with the support from the exhibitors. It exceeded my expectations,” Othello School District Career Director Amy Parris said. “I was proud of the way students conducted themselves with the businesses. So many of the kids thanked me, told me they might not have to go to college now to have a meaningful career.”
Parris said a lot of students talked with Trudy Doolittle from Evergreen Implement who told them of “the amazing training program” they have put together with Walla Walla Community College. There was also a lot of interest generated at the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center booth from kids who were unaware of the many career path courses offered at the Moses Lake facility.
“We’re here because not all students are college-bound and industry needs students in the programs we offer,” said Melody Jensen, who teaches entrepreneurship and marketing at CB Tech. “They can choose from criminal justice, professional medical careers, culinary arts, video game programing, cosmetology, construction trades, automotive technology, advanced manufacturing/welding and entrepreneurship and marketing.”
Aside from the many programs offered at CB Tech, Jensen said the organizers of the Career Showcase were especially interested in a “lost art” taught at the institution.
“They like the soft skills we are teaching,” she said. “Our students wear uniforms, pull out chairs for each other, and there are no cell phones, electronic devices, ear buds allowed and hats cannot be worn inside the building.”
CB Tech opened in 2014. The facility offers two paths to instruction, a full school year and a summer program that Jensen said is good for incoming students who are unsure of the occupation they may want to pursue. She noted a professional medical student can obtain CNA certification which makes them eligible for clinical rotations and college credits. Those interested in criminal justice get an inside look at the daily operations of pulling someone over and writing tickets, and crime scene processing. The students wear police uniforms, and sport mock hand guns and handcuffs. Moses Lake retired police Chief Dave Ruffin is the instructor.
Jensen was impressed with the goings-on at the Career Showcase.
“This is a great thing they are doing here,” she said. “I love how industry is here. We’re all partnering together. Students filling out the passport for all the stops here is excellent.”
Looking to the technological future
Those students looking for a somewhat unconventional line of employment found it at the Big Bend Community College Unmanned (drone) Systems Program booth.
Rafael Villalobos, advisor for the 28-credit course that prepares students for the Federal Aviation 107 examination that centers on mission planning, sensor and data collection, natural flight lab and unmanned ground school, said students who complete the program will acquire enough knowledge to put what they learn to use in the employment world.
“Unmanned systems are currently being used by the Department of Transportation for inspecting roads and bridges. City assessors use them to assess property values, insurance appraisers use them, realtors use them, and so do plumbers to find leaks in pipes,” he said. “They are also being used in the agriculture industry, and the Grant County PUD is looking at them for inspecting fish ladders and condition of concrete on dams.”
After completing the course, Villalobos said anyone interested in the aforementioned business applications can purchase the unmanned systems, which vary in size and price.
“In our fleet what I call the cheeseburger drone that weighs about a quarter-pound and has 7-9 minutes of flight time and uses Bluetooth, costs under $200. Seven- to 8-pound fixed wings and helicopters with 12-17 minutes of flight time are around $800,” he said. “The Ag fixed-wing Cessna with HD, thermal and infrared capability runs about $1700. It has a pre-programmed flight pattern in which you can toss it up in the air, and after it completes the pattern you pick, will return within 10 feet of where it took off. It flies up to 40 minutes and covers 300 acres in one scan.”
The initial investment in a drone of this caliber might seem a bit spendy but it is actually more cost efficient, Villalobos said, than hours spent walking fields and taking soil samples.
“It has sensors that can tell you how much nitrogen is in the soil and can find wet spots that are not visible to the naked eye. It is gas-powered and can carry a payload up to 55 pounds, which would allow you to spot spray fields and not have to pay for a crop duster.”
Seven students are currently enrolled in the program at BBCC. The two-track course, Villalobos said, also ties into robotic skills used with manufactures that work with automation.
Among the vendor booths too was a representative from an international company with its only headquarters in United States located in Othello.
“I was really excited to tell the kids about careers available in their home town and across the world,” said Tad Hildebrand, Human Resource manager at SVZ. “There are awesome jobs available here. You could even get into sales and travel around the country or the world selling our products.”
SVZ specializes in fruit and vegetable purees and concentrates. Their ingredients are marketed to beverage companies, bakeries, dairies, and makers of baby food, ice cream, jams and liquors, soups and savory fillings.
The company has outlets in the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Poland.
A surprisingly popular exhibit
But the most popular booth at the Career Showcase, Parris said, was law enforcement. “We had officers from the Adams County Sheriff’s Department and from the OPD. A lot of kids said they had thought about a career in law enforcement, but had never talked to a police officer before.”
Julie Flyckt, Adams County Development Council business development and marketing coordinator, who also played a significant role in partnering local businesses with the Othello School District, had nothing but praise for the efforts from all involved in the first ever Career Showcase.
“It was a pretty cool event. The planning commission was hoping for at least half the exhibitors that were there and we got double that (23 overall) so it was fantastic,” she said. “Businesses were really appreciative for the opportunity to come together to show job/career paths to the students. They haven’t had the opportunity to do that in a long time.”
Active student participation at the venue also caught Flyckt’s eye.
“I was amazed at the amount of students that wrote their names down at the booths wanting more information,” she said. “They had a lot of opportunities to engage with the businesses with having to put stickers on the passport cards issued when they visited the booths. There was also a place on the card to list the top three career choice options. Both help to connect students with the businesses.”
Vehicle in place for follow-up
Parris said the passport card given to the students was a valuable tool to find out what businesses they were most interested in, and added there is a system in place to get information from businesses to the students they were most impressed with.
“We have one-to-one devices to communicate with the kids,” Parris said. “All students have Chromebooks this year so we can email all of them at once. So when we are ready to bring in a specific group to talk with them, we’ll be able to blanket everyone.”
The Career Showcase was such a success that there are plans already in the works to make it an annual event.
“We are going to make this a yearly thing. I’m anxious to get rolling again after a short de-briefing,” Parris said. “The goal of the development council this year was the merger/partnership with local businesses. For us, it was exposure for the kids — what jobs are available here. Next year we want to morph it into a career fair. There are 16 clusters at the high school level in Washington that we want to identify with to be able to fulfill all pathways to the future.”