At the recent PWA Expo Breakfast, three high school students with wildly different career plans took to the stage to share what sparked their interest during recent PWA Career Days and other career-learning opportunities in the high-growth sectors of design, construction and technology.
Following is an excerpt of their comments, edited for brevity. You may also see a video or read more about the PWA Breakfast.
Sarah Steele, junior, Jefferson High School
Q. At Jefferson, you’re able to take classes there and at the nearby Portland Community College campus. How does that work?
SS: Right now a lot of juniors are enrolled in a program at our school called Beyond High School. We’re working on resumes and they’ve given us lots of scholarship help. They’re willing to waive all of our (application) fees.
You can take PCC classes. In fact, you are required to have a certain amount of PCC credit to even graduate from Jefferson. And Ms. (Laura) Bulinski has a biotech program at Jefferson High School that is paired with OHSU. She’s actually the person who gave me the opportunity to be up here today.
Q. You had a chance to go to a Career Day. How did that come about?
SS: Ms. Bulinski asked me a few simple questions about what I was thinking about going into in my life and I told her business and marketing. And she came to me with the opportunity to go to Wieden+Kennedy’s Career Day. I honestly didn’t know what Wieden+Kennedy was. But once I went there, I can tell you for sure now that I will be working there – that’s what I want to do.
Q. So what is it about that morning and that experience that makes you feel that way?
SS: I was nervous at first. But the vibe of the room and the creative space just felt so welcoming and warm. I didn’t know there was a place that so perfectly combined everything that I want to do with my life. It was like every category (of job) we went to, I could see myself doing this and it was amazing.
Q. What was your favorite part about the day?
SS: There is this part of Wieden+Kennedy, (where) you’re allowed to bring in your dogs and they just free-roam and play with the other dogs. While we were doing interviews, they were having the time of their lives and, omigosh, that just sealed the deal. I have to be here.
Q. You were surprised at the mixture of the creative side and business sides. Why did that matter to you?
SS: I want to go into (what I see in) my head as a weird mixture of marketing and business. I’m not very creative – I can’t make beauty come out of my hand but I can think of it, kind of, but I would prefer to do the business side. In looking for colleges it was hard to find a nice combination of both. It seemed like you had to choose one or the other.
But at Wieden+Kennedy, they were just beautifully intertwined. It was so perfect. I didn’t know there was a place that could so perfectly be what I imagined in my head and it really blew my mind and it’s changed my life.
“This is what we hope for when we have students explore careers, to have those a-ha moments. It’s having a chance to figure out what your spark is.” — Susan Nielsen, PWA interim executive director
Q. If you’re talking to employers here, what would you say to them? What kind of impact can someone have in one day or one morning?
SS: As I said, Wieden+Kennedy ’s Career Day changed my life so imagining how many opportunities are going to be (available) at these tables or at the Expo. You will change somebody’s life. You’re going to make their career.
Bryce Kaplan, senior, Roosevelt High School.
Q. How did you get involved and interested in carpentry and construction?
BK:. Actually, I didn’t want to be in construction at all until my junior year. I started out wanting to do police work. Or being in the military. But then it just clicked: Might as well make twice as much and not get shot at. (Audience laughter.)
Q. So what classes did you take that sparked your interests in construction?
BK: I took Introduction to Carpentry as a junior, and I enjoyed it so much that my carpentry teacher, Mr. Duckworth, got me into the construction camp program at PNCI (Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute).
Q. How did they get you into the summer program and what did it take to get accepted?
BK: It wasn’t really that hard. It was more signing applications and having someone from PNCI have a meeting with you about it.
Q. What did you do specifically during the summer internship? What skills did you learn?
BK: I learned that safety and teamwork carries you through construction.
Q. You also talked about communication and that being able to talk to people is important.
BK: Communication also helps. If you’re talking to your friend, you have to be noticing what you’re doing also.
Q. What kinds of activities did they have you working on while you were there?
BK: They had me working with site service, which was safety and stuff. I was working with a team of three or four. I was specifically working with an apprentice building guard rails and (on) safety and taking down handrails.
Q. You’re also involved in the ACE Mentor program (focused on architecture, construction and engineering). Can you talk about what you’re doing in ACE?
BK: We’re working on a project for a post office off Broadway (in downtown Portland) that’s being torn down.We have to come up with our own design. We start out from what it looks like, the whole shape of it, and then we get into the structure.
Q. What have you learned from ACE that you didn’t know before?
BK: That (a project) doesn’t just start with building. It all starts with planning and what to do with that planning.
Q. You’re part of the PNCI pre-apprenticeship program. Do you have plans after graduation?
BK: After high school, I’m going straight into a union for carpentry, hopefully as a carpentry apprentice.
Tyson Koopman-Baker, junior, Clackamas Middle College.
Q. What’s it like going to school at Clackamas Middle College?
TKB: CMS is quite the experience, just getting ahead of the game compared to regular high school, like jumping straight into college. The second year of high school, I was immediately taking college classes and that was definitely a new experience for me.
Q. Was that a big academic jump for you or did you have some supports along the way that made it successful for you?
TKB: I felt it was a mix of both. It was difficult at first –it definitely was – teachers there at CMC treat you more like a college student rather than a regular high school student. So you definitely get support from them. When I got to CCC (Clackamas Community College) and started to take college classes, it was more difficult but I was able to handle it.
Q. How many college credits will you have when you graduate?
TKB: I should have between 80 and 90 credits. After that I plan to go to PSU (Portland State University).
Q. In February, you had an opportunity to go to Simple Career Day. How did that go?
TKB: I really got to learn about the business itself and how the people got there and their life stories, where you don’t really have to start off with one place and stick with that one career choice. You can definitely go back and have a second chance. That’s one of the biggest things I found interesting at Simple.
Q. You said by attending that event, it made you less worried about your next decision in your life. That you can maybe go and explore something in college and it may end up being what you do for the rest of your life but it may not. And that relieved some stress for you. Is that right?
TKB: Yes, that is correct.
Q. What stood out to you at that event?
TKB: The workplace environment — it felt pretty laid-back. Where everyone felt at home. It was almost like one big family –where they had beanbag chairs, they had dogs roaming around, they had an entire kitchen layout with a fruit platter. It was a pretty laid-back place.
Q. When you graduate from CMC, what are you thinking about going into right now?
TKB: I want to take computer science classes and get a bachelor’s in computer science from, potentially, Portland State. After that, they have a post-graduate certificate in cybersecurity. And with that, I want to go into the FBI. In fact, this summer, I am doing the FBI Youth Academy. I feel like it will be a very good experience.