Students from Mount Si High School and Two Rivers School got a chance to tour two Snoqualmie businesses on Friday, Nov. 3, as part of the district’s first Career Exploration Fridays event.
Born from a partnership between the Snoqualmie Valley School District, Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce and Snoqualmie Valley Community Network, the program was designed to give high school students the chance to see various careers in different industries inside and out of the Valley.
For this first day of tours, several groups of students visited Technical Glass Products and Spacelabs Healthcare in Snoqualmie. The student groups received a tour of the facilities and got the chance to ask employees about their jobs and their pathways to qualify for those jobs.
As part of the tour of Technical Glass Products, Daryl Petree, welder and fabricator and former Mount Si and Two Rivers alumnus, explained the work process in the warehouse and answered questions from students.
Petree said that while he wasn’t the best student during his time in school, he was inspired and motivated by Mount Si teacher Gregg Meyers, who taught several of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses. During his time in Meyers’ architectural design, welding metals, and wood shop classes, Petree discovered what he wanted to do, and became motivated to find his path into a job in that field.
He also served on the district CTE advisory board along with Meyers and said he felt it was a breath of fresh air to speak with students from both schools that were interested in entering a trade.
“These kids really just blew my expectations out, they had great questions, and legitimately seemed interested in the whole process, which I thought was very cool,” he said.
Carolyn Simpson, president of the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce and Snoqualmie Valley School Board member, said this program had been a long time in the making. She had seen similar programs work in Spokane and in other states, and thought the Valley would be a great place to implement the program.
“We were hearing from our employers in the state and locally that they were having difficulty finding qualified and appropriately educated and trained individuals for the jobs that they had,” she said. “On the other side we were hearing from the community network and the school district, the students felt little hope, they couldn’t really make a connection between what they are learning in school and what their future might be. So the idea that we are kind of mirroring after I saw it in place in Spokane, Wisconsin, Oregon, and in Nebraska, is to try to make those connections between jobs and education.”
The program will take students into employment centers for high-wage, high-demand jobs, to learn about the structure and skills needed and what kind of education and experience those employees had to make it to where they are now. The goal, she said, is to go on three to four career exploration tours per year.
“We will rotate through different industries it could include health care, biotech pharma, recreation hospitality, info tech, video games, music production, video production, the high-wage, high-demand jobs that are in our state and also hone in on student interest,” she said. “We will do our best to keep it local but also want to have a good cross-section of industries. We don’t have everything here, so when we want to go to biotech pharma we are going to need to go to Seattle or Bothell. If we want to do info tech we are going to need to go to Redmond or Seattle and Bellevue.”
Through partnerships with businesses, Simpson hopes to have the companies and students work together through apprenticeships, mentorships, and internships, throughout the year. The partnership of Valley organizations will also help to put on job fairs for Mount Si High School and Two Rivers.
“For example, psychologists and psychiatrists, we are not going to go to those offices while they are managing patients,” she said. “As far as a mental health counseling perspective, there is a lot of interest in that industry and we will bring those types of industries into a job fair at the high school in February.”
Rhonda Schmidt, principal of Two Rivers School, said she was glad to see this program offer the opportunity to have her students get a closer look at local business and think about how they might plan their pathways of education and work to achieve their goals after they leave school.
“Students can’t dream about what they don’t know,” she said. “If they don’t know about what possibilities there are for jobs then they can’t be thinking about how what they are doing in high school connects to what they want to do possibly for a career, anything where they can see what jobs look like allows them to better engage in school.”