STUDENTS AND BUSINESS LEADERS LEARN FROM EACH OTHER AT VANCOUVER’S DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY EXPO
Big news from Vancouver, Washington. If you put 300 students in a room with a bunch of photo booths, electronic whack-a-mole games, and people from the tech industry ready to talk about job opportunities, the whack-a-mole stays silent and the tech industry folks go hoarse from engaging in multiple networking conversations with engaged STEM high school students.
On the morning of April 28, the Southwest Washington STEM Network cosponsored an Education Preview at the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s first ever Digital Technology Expo. Over 30 tech companies gathered to share information about their products and advise students from the Vancouver, Camas, Hockinson, and Evergreen School Districts on how best to prepare for job opportunities in their career fields.
Erika Laws, Director of Marketing and Events for the Greater Vancouver Chamber stated: “we see a great value in students and business people interacting. We want our businesses to know there’s a talented stock of people here locally, and we want our students to know that Vancouver is a great place to stay and start their career in the tech sector.”
Students took full advantage of interacting with professionals in the tech sector. I tore Evergreen High School seniors and best friends Genesis Payne & Tara Regnie away from speaking with a Washington State University team about coding virtual reality games to talk to me about what they hoped to get out of the event. Genesis stated “this is a great learning opportunity – everything is so different than what we see at school.” Tara echoed “we’re having lots of fun.” Genesis hopes to go into photography and film making and Tara hopes to do graphic design – they were both eager to explain to me how these skills are necessary for video game and virtual reality programming.
Business representatives also enjoyed engaging with students. Daniel Choi, a sales manager at PSAV, the largest hotel A/V provider in the world, said “I hope to inspire kids to find a career in audio and video production. Students can start their careers at PSAV with a two year degree in recording technology. I started out right out of school as a tech, and I’ve been promoted to sales manager after four years at this job.” By the end of the event students were lined up to talk to him about potential careers in his field.
Julie Rawls, Community Relations Specialist at the Port of Vancouver, echoed the availability of local jobs: “The Port of Vancouver is all about job creation. There are so many jobs and careers at the Port. Students can get involved if they have an environmental science degree or any number of technical certifications – we’ve got jobs open from pipe fitters to security.”
Educators found the event especially valuable for their students. Said Timothy Larsen, a teacher at Vancouver iTECH Prep, “Students are here today to practice their soft skills – to articulate their passions and skills to business owners. Before we arrived we practiced networking skills, and I hope students will come away with a confidence boost.”
Timothy’s students affirmed the value of practicing soft skills. Darlene and Rachel, tenth graders at iTECH, laughed as they told me that students at their school can be a bit socially awkward so it was great to get practice networking with adults who work at businesses.
Throughout the two hour event, students got lots of practice networking. Southwest Washington STEM Network Director Ted Feller stated “We want to create an atmosphere that allows students and businesses to learn from each other.” From the amount of business cards exchanged and notes taken, it’s clear that learning happened for both students and industry members.