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News Release
New STEM Program Offers High School Grads Work and a Degree - 11/02/18

***Vancouver-based ‘Career Launch’ pilot featured as model for Governor’s career-connected learning initiative.***

VANCOUVER, Washington, November 2, 2018 - A new pilot program of the Southwest Washington STEM Network is connecting local students with hands-on, career learning opportunities and the chance to earn an associate’s degree at Clark College.  

The pilot program, called Manufacturing Career Launch, involves a two-year long, part-time paid work-based learning experience at SEH America, a silicon wafer manufacturer based in Vancouver. Through the program, participants also have the opportunity to simultaneously earn their associates degree from Clark College.

The program is especially important in the current economy because the STEM Network estimates that up to 81 percent of new, high-growth, well-paying jobs in this region require a post-secondary certification, credential or degree—and only a third of area students who start high school each fall are expected to obtain one.

“It’s cost effective, it uses existing systems, and it’s sustainable,” said Ted Feller, executive director of the SW WA STEM Network.

The first-ever Career Launch cadre is assigned to various departments at SEH America part time. Some are now learning how to use equipment like wire saws, while others are learning about processing silicon. When their Career Launch program ends, they will move into full-time positions at SEH America and some will have earned their associate’s degree.

"It has given me a reliable plan for the beginning of my adult life where I had no idea what I was going to do before,” said Career Launch participant, Devon Laverne.

According to U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, employment in STEM occupations is growing rapidly and much faster than employment in non-STEM occupations over the last decade (24.4 percent versus 4.0 percent, respectively), making the pilot program even more critical to the local job market and beyond.

“For the Career Launch participants, it’s not just a job—it’s a career pathway.” said Natalie Pacholl, SEH America training and development specialist.

The SEH America Career Launch program is the newest offering of the SW Washington STEM Network, which has been growing since 2011, recently expanding when some smaller, more rural districts joined.

The STEM Network is attracting attention statewide. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee visited Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver this past spring to learn more about the program. He called the STEM Network model one he can highlight as the state puts his Career Connect Washington initiative into action.

“Career-connected learning can work in every corner of the state in multiple industries,” Inslee said. “We are working to prepare the next generation of Washington’s workforce for high-demand, good-paying careers, and we want to give every kid a path for future success, whatever their vision might be.”

The Career Launch program also offers an important opportunity for SEH America, which anticipates upcoming retirements of some longtime employees with highly specialized skills.

To learn more about the program, visit http://swstemnetwork.org/impact.

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