Two Portland after-school mentoring programs that encourage student interest in construction and design-related careers recently got a big dose of national attention.

Education Week, widely regarded as a must-read news source for K-12 educators, examined the growing interest in career and technical education through the lens of two programs fueled by partnerships between Portland-area schools and business and labor leaders.

    • The ACE Mentor Program of Oregon began in 2006-07 as a local affiliate of the national ACE organization. It allows about 150 students to meet once a week for two hours with their professional mentors from local Architecture, Construction, and Engineering firms in the mentors’ downtown offices. The program runs from January to May and puts students to work in teams on a building-design challenge with the help of their mentors. It is staffed by the Portland Workforce Alliance.
    • The PACE Mentorship Program, modeled on ACE and begun in 2015-16, exposes students to potential careers in the Plumbing, Air, Carpentry, and Electrical trades. From January to March, students meet in the Portland Public Schools central office once a week for two hours with trade mentors, working in pairs alongside carpenters, electricians and sheet metal workers. It serves about two dozen students and is led by PPS, with support from multiple partners.

Students in the ACE program get a chance to engage in conceptual work and those in PACE get to work with their hands to build a project; all students learn essential career skills such as teamwork and problem-solving. Both programs share the aim of getting students ready for the workplace.

“Programs like ACE are part of a growing interest in career and technical education, or CTE, in high schools across the country—both in school and after school,” reporter Marva Hinton said in the Education Week article published earlier this month.

“In Portland, as in many other districts, the push to increase CTE offerings is partly coming from leaders within the business community and the trades, who see it as a way to keep the pipeline into their professions flowing with workers who have the right job skills. The after-school option gives students who are already taking CTE classes something extra, while permitting students in regular classes to try on careers to see if they fit.”

The article quotes students, mentors and program managers in presenting a multi-faceted look at the two after-school learning programs.

For Joel Gonzalez, a recent graduate of Franklin High School and self-described hands-on learner, the PACE program helped him decide on a carpentry apprenticeship.

For Audrey Collins, a Grant High School graduate, the ACE program set her on a path to attend Oregon State University to major in construction-engineering management with an $8,000 ACE scholarship to boot.

“I’ve gotten a really good grasp on what the different industries are, and what kinds of jobs you can have within them, and how they work together in a way that I don’t think any classes at your typical high school offer,” she said.

Read the Education Week piece here: “After-School Programs Enter Career-Tech Space”