Nearly 80 Portland high school students ditched their classrooms this month to learn about incredible careers in tech and creative services here in Oregon.
No, they weren’t playing hooky. Rather, they signed up through their schools to attend one of two Career Days hosted by the tech firm Puppet and the advertising giant Wieden+Kennedy. Both visits were facilitated by Portland Workforce Alliance as part of our mission to boost Oregon’s high school graduation rate and help connect students with our region’s growing high-value sectors.
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About 30 students from six Portland Public Schools campuses toured Puppet’s downtown Portland office on Nov. 17. There they met with volunteers who described their work and the varied routes they took to landing their jobs at the company, which provides automated IT solutions for companies.
A day earlier, about 50 students from eight high schools did the same at W+K, the world’s top creative ad agency, based in Northwest Portland. A diverse group of employees showed them some of the teamwork, creativity and cultural knowledge behind their work.
At both companies, students were surprised to learn there was no single path to a job. Employees said they majored in all sorts of subjects in college, emphasizing that one need not have a computer science degree to work in technology.
“When I came in I didn’t know what to expect but everyone was enthusiastic and interesting and got me excited about the possibilities in tech as a career,” one student said after the Puppet tour.
“It was extremely eye opening,” another student said following her visit to Wieden+Kennedy. “ I never knew how many avenues were available in advertising.”
Employment trends are on the upswing in both tech and creative services.
Oregon tech employment grew at its fastest rate in a decade last year, according to a state report released in April. The report by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis also found tech jobs come with generous pay – an average of nearly $104,000 a year, more than twice the state average, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Oregon had just over 95,000 tech workers in 2015, up 4 percent from the prior year, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Although substantially smaller as a sector, Oregon advertising and public relations firms also have been hiring. Since the recession, the industry has grown rapidly, adding 1,520 jobs (33%) to reach about 6,100 in early 2016, according to an Oregon Employment Department report issued in October.
Most industry workers earn more than the statewide average for all industries of $48,320, the report said, and three subsectors in particular stand out for high average pay — advertising agencies ($91,342), public relations agencies ($78,271) and media buying agencies ($103,367).
Portland Workforce Alliance thanks everyone at Puppet and Wieden+Kennedy for volunteering their times as well as the PPS career coordinators who helped get students there.
Three more Career Days in December will give students the opportunity to learn more about careers in health care, construction management and veterinary care.
And the forecast for 2017? Even more of a good thing.