Eyes on the future

WOW Week connects classrooms to industry

It’s time to WOW students around Douglas County with upcoming virtual tours of local and regional businesses and organizations looking to spread the word on potential careers paths for students.

Douglas County Partners for Student Success is partnering with Oregon Connections and the South Metro STEM Hub to present Oregon World of Work Week next month. Through the Oregon Connections online platform, classrooms can log in to participate in the live and interactive virtual tours. It’s one of the many tools being promoted by Bright Futures Umpqua, an initiative of DCPSS, to expand career-connected learning experiences for students.  

“Oregon Connections is such a valuable tool for teachers to use to expose students to the world of possibilities that exist for them as they consider their futures,” said Gwen Soderberg-Chase, director of DCPSS and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub. “While we also work to create physical field trip experiences for local schools, virtual tours provide a convenient and affordable alternative.”

Oregon Connections Project Coordinator Lacey Ferguson, who also serves as program consultant for DCPSS and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, said the virtual sessions allow students a glimpse into jobs and industry that are available in Oregon, and some even specifically in Douglas County. 

“Often, we don’t even realize what is right in our backyard,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to highlight what’s going on in the workforce landscape of our county and our state.”

Two tours will take place in Douglas County, one at Wildlife Safari in Winston and the other at Swanson Group in Roseburg.

During the Swanson virtual tour, which will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 10, students will get an inside look at the world-class forest products company. Swanson Group manufactures forest products including plywood, concrete forming panels, studs, veneer and residual products, and sign making panels. During the tour, students will see what the process of manufacturing forest products looks like, meet employees and receive an overview of careers at Swanson Group. The tour will be led by corporate recruiter Jimmy Swanson and plant manager Elmer Miller and will include time for questions.  

During the Wildlife Safari tour, at 1 p.m. Dec. 12, students will learn about the 600-acre park and all of the time, funding and dedication it takes to keep it functioning. Expect to see how much work goes in to feeding large carnivores, peek at some hibernating bears, and learn about zoological sciences, wildlife conservation and animal-related careers. 

Wildlife Safari participated in Douglas County’s WOW Week last March, which also featured Con-Vey Keystone of Roseburg and live lessons in career navigation and college debt. In all, 67 classrooms totaling 1,180 students participated in Douglas County WOW Week, including 15 local classrooms. The Wildlife Safari tour alone drew 47 classrooms from across five states.

“We’re excited to partner with the South Metro STEM Hub,” Ferguson said. “They are so easy to work with and their goals and priorities are very similar to ours at the Umpqua Valley STEAM hub. By partnering together and combining our efforts to organize WOW weeks, we are able to provide teachers across the state with more opportunities for virtual field trips and sessions that feature Oregon industry and careers.”

Other sessions during the month include:

  • An Introduction to Engineering: 9:30 a.m. Dec. 3
  • Why Engineering Was a Good Fit for Me: 11 a.m. Dec. 3
  • Getting You Safe Water – A Job as a Civil Engineer: 2 p.m. Dec. 3
  • Discover Aircraft Engineering: 9:30 a.m. Dec. 4
  • How Taking Theater Helped My Engineering Career!: 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4
  • Becoming a Paralegal: 8 a.m. Dec. 5
  • Why Firefighters Don’t Rely on Cellphones: 10 a.m. Dec. 6
  • Using High School Math & Science to Build Roads & Highways: 9 a.m. Dec. 12

Over the rest of this school year, DCPSS and Oregon Connections will be featuring many more virtual industry tours from across Douglas County that will highlight a wide variety of career sectors and options for students. Educators are encouraged to take advantage of this tool as much as possible throughout the year – free platinum licenses to Oregon Connections are available through the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub. Educators should contact Ferguson to get set up with a free license. She can be reached at 541-912-5805 or laceyfergusonconsulting@outlook.com.

For more information and to sign up for the tours, visit https://oregonconnections.nepris.com/. Those who are unable to attend live can sign up to be notified when a recording of the session is available to view. 

“It’s never too early to start introducing our youth to career education,” Ferguson said. “The more they are exposed to a variety of careers, the more background knowledge they will have as they begin to sort through what future careers might be a good fit for them.”

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