Malheur County, on Oregon’s eastern border with Idaho, is renowned for its awe-inspiring high-desert landscapes and fertile river valleys. But the county also lags behind state averages in job growth, labor force participation and median household income, even as its high school graduate rate is higher than the state average.
In response, Oregon State University Extension Service and Malheur Education Service District – Frontier STEM Hub compiled a team that included partners from Eastern Oregon Workforce Board and local industry that succeeded in receiving a seed grant from the Extension Foundation to develop Malheur Works. The internship program’s goal is to overcome these evident economic disparities and lack of skilled employees in the county.
Malheur Works connects the learning needs of students with the talent demands of local businesses. The program strives to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world by providing students with opportunities to gain hands-on work experience while also providing professional development instruction to build soft and social skills. The internship pairs employers with prospective talent, providing meaningful work experience for young adults while filling a labor gap. Weekly professional development workshops and mentorship provided by community volunteers establishes the three pillars on which Malheur Works’ success is built: knowledge, policy knowledge and behavior change.
As a result of Malheur Works, participants gain knowledge and skills in the following areas:
- Improved 21st century skills and essential soft skills.
- Understanding of how technology is applied in the workplace.
- Increased knowledge of decision-making, life skills, and positive life choices among youth and adults.
Interns, who have just graduated from high school, exit the nine-week summer internship program with marketable skills to further their success in either collegiate or professional endeavors. This not only aids in improving the lives of the interns for the long-term, but it also opens a pipeline of skilled labor to propel local industry into the future. Through continued effort and dedication to the cause of bettering our communities, the long-term goal of building Malheur County into a prosperous and thriving region can be achieved.
Malheur Works intern Eduardo Amescua gained skills with Stan’s Heating Inc., as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician. He said, “I am grateful to the program for giving me knowledge of the important points of a job. Thanks to my mentor for supporting me and thanks to my co-workers and bosses who had the patience and taught me, I learned a lot from them.”
Sierra Dobson, a Malheur Works intern with WorkSource Oregon and OSU Extension, said, “I’ve learned a lot. For example, I’ve learned there are many resources available through the government and community to help support individuals. In addition, input from co-workers has helped me prepare myself for college this fall.”
In addition to the Extension Foundation, funding for Malheur Works is provided by the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board, Oregon Community Foundation, Eastern Oregon Workforce Board, The Ford Family Foundation, WorkSource Oregon and the Malheur Education Service District.