Program to explore a new career path every month

Some teenagers have a pretty good idea what they want to be when they grow up; others have none to speak of. Figuring out how to prepare for future professional lives while still in high school can be bewildering either way. But thanks to an unusual program at Wilson High School, students are getting the inside scoop on what it will take to make it in a chosen profession from adults who already did.

The program is the “So You Want My Job” career speaker series, offered most Thursdays during Tutor Time at Wilson’s new College and Career Center. It is the brainchild of Kate Morgan, the school’s new career coordinator.

“Real Talk,” a career speaker series offered at Roosevelt High School, inspired her.

“I wanted to do something similar at Wilson and make it our own,” Morgan said. “I wanted to provide a bridge between Wilson and the local business community.”

On Dec. 12, Morgan provided a bridge between Wilson students and local businesspeople creating an actual bridge — civil engineers working on the Sellwood Bridge Project.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections program, employment of civil engineers is expected to grow 19 percent from 2010 to 2020. And if the turnout at the civil engineering “So You Want My Job” panel is any indication, that projection was dead-on; about 17 students from grades 10 through 12 attended the optional presentation.

by: CONNECTION PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - A panel of speakers working on the Sellwood Bridge Project share their insights into the field of civil engineering with Wilson High School students Dec. 12.Early on Jon Henrichsen, a Wilson parent and Multnomah County engineering manager, summed up the engineering profession:

“Engineers design everything worth using,” he said, but “Engineers don’t build anything. … We have to tell other people that work in the crafts how to do that.”

Mike Baker, a senior project manager at David Evans and Associates Inc., warned students that the process of becoming an engineer is a serious commitment, but the effort is well worth it.

“You’re looking at several years of study to learn what it takes to be an engineer,” he said. “It’s not really easy, but it’s rewarding, and you get to build and maintain and modernize the infrastructure that you need to work and play.”

And Carly Clark, a Multnomah County Bridge Division engineer who received her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering just two years ago, said that engineering can often turn out to be an appealing career path even for those who least expect it — herself included.

“I’m creative,” she said, recalling that when she was first considering potential college majors, she told her parents, “I’m not an engineer; I’m not a nerd.”

Student attendees were given the opportunity to pick the speakers’ brains in a Q-and-A session following the formal presentation, asking questions such as “What kinds of things do you (have to) do … before you put the actual bridge up?” and “What’s the pay like out of college?”

For those students concerned that there may not always be such high demand for civil engineers, Henrichsen urged them not to fear.

“Infrastructure in America is a mess. All our roads and bridges are falling apart,” he said. “There’s probably always going to be civil engineering jobs.”

According to Morgan, the Dec. 12 panel truly is part of an ongoing series.

“Each month we have a different career pathway. In November, we had medical professions. Dr. Sean Vaniman of Hillsdale Veterinary Clinic spoke at Wilson. Students loved it,” she said. “I work with Wilson teachers in different subject areas to promote the events. For STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) I reached out to science and math. Next month I will work with English teachers to promote journalism month.”

And, she said, “It will be offered next year as well.”

Why is Morgan already so dedicated to a program still in its infancy?

“It gives students the perspective of a day in the life of the professional speaker. … It can lead to potential job shadows and internships,” she explains. “It provides context for something that they think they may be interested in and after hearing what the professional actually does, they may take a different path, but in an informed way.

“I want to help students make sense of their world.”

Drew Dakessian can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 108.

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