CareerExplore Northwest began in response to feedback from the Spokane area business community expressing a desire for a strong workforce for our region. Employers wanted to hire locally but lamented the lack of qualified or interested applicants. At the same time, local school districts were beginning to change their goals beyond prepping students for four-year college degrees, recognizing the many options for living-wage jobs that require other types of training.
Starting in 2018, we developed an advisory council made up of the Spokane Workforce Council, industry leaders, Spokane’s chamber of commerce (GSI), several area school districts, regional universities, and our community colleges to help provide a solution. The result is Career Explore Northwest, a multi-media career exploration tool and community resource for students and adults that provides practical up-to-date information about the variety of jobs in our region.
We began by working with businesses to produce 90-second job spotlights, interviewing employees who were passionate about their work to inspire young people to seek out more information. This process continues today: businesses and grantors cover our production costs and also receive an underwriting schedule on KSPS PBS.
We built a website, CareerExploreNW.org, to feature the job spotlights and provide a user-friendly website with engaging graphics and local information about each job. Up-to-date data are provided by Spokane Workforce Council. We regularly consult with Career and Technical Education specialists at area school districts to assure the website meets their educational needs and to help them promote its use in schools.
The project continues to be embraced by schools, businesses and colleges. Our advisory council meets regularly to assure the project grows and continues to meet the need. Content and usage metrics are growing each month. We now have over 25 jobs and videos online with another 29 in the hopper.
CareerExplore NW has impact beyond its use in schools. Because the job spotlights air on KSPS PBS, young people and the adults who guide them learn about jobs they many never have been exposed to within their circle of friends and family.
As we continue the project, at the request of both educators and businesses, we are creating 360-degree interactive Virtual Field Trips, where students can click-and-drag for an up-close look behind the scenes of regional companies.
CareerExploreNW.org averages 1,500 page views a month with an under age 35 demographic. Those metrics are growing as the tool is used in more and more classrooms.
CareerExplore Northwest has offered a bridge between educators and industry. MacKay Manufacturing, our first sponsor, reported that 40% of their website traffic was driven by CareerExploreNW.org.
Says Scott Kerwien, Director of College and Career Readiness, Spokane Public Schools: “The past narrative for what it means to be college and career ready after high school has largely been focused on 4-year college messaging. The Career Explore NW website allows counselors, teachers, and students to explore local college and career options which open that narrative up to 2-year technical degrees that lead to ‘living wage’ jobs in our community. It’s been extremely helpful for our educators to support students in understanding other valuable post-secondary pathways and most importantly see local career opportunities to complete the full college to career pathway.”
CareerExplore NW has opened up a multitude of new doors for our station. In 2 years, it has generated 23 sponsors, 16 of which were brand new to KSPS. It has generated $316,000 in new revenue to date. 89% of the income comes from business sponsorship. 11% has come from public grantors. Last spring, we were contacted by a neighboring Educational School District to provide CENW for southeast Washington. We are now expanding to serve that region and have already secured over $30,000 in funding.