Career education isn’t the only answer to Oregon’s bafflingly low high school graduation rate. But it’s certainly one proven way to inspire more teenagers to graduate and find great jobs.

We know this from national research and local graduation data – and we know it from experience, when we watch students leave campus and explore their career interests.

These students light up. They lean in. They imagine themselves at 22 or 24, with a new job in their favorite field, and they return to campus with a bigger sense of ownership in their future.

This positive impact on students is why PWA volunteers tend to stick with it, year after year. And it’s why we’re glad the demand in Oregon for career-related learning is growing.

This week, two Portland-based employers with global impact are hosting PWA Career Days for Portland-area high school students: Wieden+Kennedy, the advertising agency, and Mercy Corps, the international humanitarian aid organization. Earlier this month, we brought students to Puppet Labs, the IT software company, for a behind-the-scenes look at careers in Portland technology.


Meanwhile, we’re gearing up for the 12th annual NW Youth Careers Expo, set for Feb. 24, 2016. More than 4,000 students have already signed up to attend this career-education event, and we’re expecting more than 100 leading Oregon employers in every major sector.


It’s tempting to get discouraged, sometimes, by the persistent challenges facing Oregon schools. But we’re inspired every day by teachers who persevere – and by students who push themselves when given the opportunity. As one student told us this month, after spending the morning at Puppet Labs: “I learned being yourself, being scared and taking risks can lead you to great things.”

Career education and Oregon’s low graduation rate