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Schools play role in work force

My View • Career expo exposes students to growth industries

In the Chinese language, the symbol for 'crisis' also translates into the word 'opportunity.' Our state faces a serious crisis.

The aging of the baby boomer work force is expected to fuel as many as 670,000 open jobs in the next 10 years. Some of the fastest-growing sectors include manufacturing, health care and construction.

While the need to develop a talented work force is a formidable challenge, it also represents a great opportunity for our region's young people.

More than 210,000 people statewide are employed in manufacturing. According to the Oregon Employment Department, the metals industry alone will need 14,000 new workers by 2012. Currently, health care employs nearly 200,000 people and will be the fastest-growing employment sector. Construction employs nearly 100,000 people. All three of these industries have high-paying jobs with good benefits.

On May 11, an important event occurred in our community that went unnoted by the media. Nearly 4,000 students from throughout the metropolitan area attended the NW Youth Career Expo. The purpose of the expo was to help students learn about family wage jobs in the metals, health care and construction fields and the need to work hard in school to develop the skills they need to access those jobs.

Representatives from Portland, Mt. Hood and Clackamas community colleges, Portland State University, and numerous other educational institutions, including union apprentice programs and technical schools, were present to encourage students to continue their education after high school.

Recently, Portland Public Schools adopted more rigorous graduation standards to better prepare students for life after high school. PPS is working with industry and community partners to increase the rigor and relevancy of the curriculum to motivate our students to improve their academic performance. It is critical that the K-12 education system work with higher education institutions and business and community partners to provide our region with a skilled work force.

What's at stake in this effort? Simply put, the continued vitality of our state and the opportunity to help our young people develop the skills to acquire good jobs in a more competitive, global economy.

The expo illustrates the commitment on the part of business, educators and the community to work together to help all our youth realize their dreams, develop their skills and access good-paying jobs.

That's a story worth telling.

Bill Furman is chief executive officer of the Greenbrier Cos., and Vicki Phillips is superintendent of Portland Public Schools.