Oregon’s unemployment rate is at a record low 3.5%, and the state economy is performing well. For 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in school, however, the unemployment rate in Oregon is 12.8%. For each of these “Opportunity Youth”, the direct cost to taxpayers (government spending on crime, health care, and welfare, as well as loss in tax revenue) is $13,900 each year. A 2015 report from the Cowan Institute details this. With 58,000 Opportunity Youth statewide, the cost to Oregon taxpayers is around $815 million a year.
On May 5, 2017, Gateway to College National Network (GtCNN) hosted our first Jobs and Career Fair, for students in the Gateway to College program at Portland Community College. While technically not Opportunity Youth, the students in the Gateway program were at one point out of school or in danger of dropping out. The fair was conceived and developed in partnership with a team from Leadership Portland, an initiative of the Portland Business Alliance. At the fair, nearly 75 Gateway to College students met with representatives from 23 Portland-area companies to talk about job, internship, and mentorship opportunities, as well as information on careers and career pathways. More than 15 students were able to directly apply to jobs at the fair.
In providing a dual enrollment opportunity and wraparound support, Gateway to College offers students a second chance at success. The Jobs and Career Fair will further ensure that these students will contribute to the economic strength of Oregon. More importantly, the interest and engagement among employers who attended the fair showed these students that their community believes in them.
In large part because of the success of the May 5 fair, GtCNN is now beginning discussions with regional partners to hold a significantly larger jobs fair in 2018 for all Opportunity Youth in our region. In Portland, 16.1% of 16 to 24-year-olds are out of school and not working, the 8th highest rate among the largest 50 cities in the country. Portland-area employers need a pipeline of workers, and its young people need jobs and pathways to careers. GtCNN envisions next year’s Jobs and Career Fair to offer a focus on specific job opportunities, and to help prepare students for a future job search (via resume and cover letter preparation, practice interviews, etc.) and careers.
GtCNN sends heartfelt thanks to the following organizations and individuals who contributed to the May Jobs and Career Fair:
Leadership Portland Team
John Ducker, Columbia Sportswear
Waleed R. Sadruddin, Kaiser Permanente
Steve Lesky, Cambia Health Solutions
Ian Christy, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP
Christine Vrontakis, SAIF Corporation
Kindra Skrydlak, Pacific Continental Bank
GtCNN Jobs and Career Fair Companies:
Neil Kelly Company
Portland State University
Airway Science for Kids, Inc.
Oregon Health & Science University
Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP
Silicon Forest Electronics
Oregon Story Board
Transportation Security Administration
Portland Parks and Recreation
Salt & Straw
Food Front Cooperative