Youth Career Connect expanded their internship program to the Sisters community late last year. With energy from both the business community and Sisters High School, internship opportunities are quickly being created, with new potential presented each day.

"Our school district strives to provide meaningful learning experiences for all of our students," said Joe Hosang, principal at Sisters High School. "In order to accomplish this, a strong internship program is one method that many principals, including myself, dream about. We have been lucky enough to be presented with the resources to capitalize on the willingness of our community partners to make it happen. I'm so excited that our high school has Larry Holeman to act as a liaison between us and our local businesses, making internship experiences equally valuable for both the business and the students."

Youth Career Connect is a regional initiative of Better Together, funded in part by East Cascades Works (EC Works), which connects young people to invaluable work experiences within local businesses. Larry Holeman, the internship coordinator in Sisters and Redmond, is housed within Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO) but relies on his relationship with each of the schools, spending one day per week on-site at Sisters High School. By interfacing with both businesses and students, he works to ensure that businesses receive the best internship candidates and that both the intern and the employer are having a positive experience throughout.

"I have already seen an increase in the number of businesses interested in hosting interns as the word spreads. Now that I'm working on site at Sisters High School and meeting with students, I can really start making connections between the two," Holeman said.

In order to expand the efforts of Youth Career Connect to the Sisters community, EC Works sought and secured funding from Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC). With this additional support, as well as the dedication of our partners within EDCO and the school district, opportunities young people have to apply their academic experiences to a workplace setting are now growing.

Caprielle Lewis, managing director, EDCO Sisters, said, "The development of this impactful internship program took several years through a highly collaborative partnership between Youth Career Connect, East Cascades Workforce, and EDCO. With strong support from Sisters School District, we can now begin connecting Sisters students to significant "real-world" work experiences both locally and in the region. We have a growing list of interested Sisters employers in a variety of industries and seek more to best match the interests and talents of students. The benefit this opportunity offers local students and employers, in addition to shaping our future workforce, is truly exciting!"

While job growth continues in Central Oregon and unemployment rates hit an all-time low, employers continue to see the value in investing in young people. By hosting an intern, local employers support the next generation of workers and ensure that there will be enough local talent to sustain and grow their business. At the same time, Better Together and EC Works continue to partner with key stakeholders and across sectors to respond to the growing needs of business and to create more opportunities for young people to connect to meaningful careers.

"There is no better place for youth to learn workplace skills necessary for long-term success than in the workplace," said Katie Condit, executive director of Better Together. "At the same time, there is no better opportunity for employers to shape their future workforce than hosting an intern."

As this initiative grows, organizers look to the community for support.

"We need partnerships and buy-in from everyone in the community to ensure that Sisters has a home-grown talent pipeline to fuel our thriving economy," Holeman said.

To host an intern, connect with an internship coordinator, or to find out more about Youth Career Connect, visit www.youthcareerconnect.org.