In February 2023, Career Connect Southwest (CCSW) began distributing over $100,000 in funding to support program development related to career connected learning to schools and organizations throughout the Southwest Washington region.

CCSW has three local networks spanning six Southwest Washington counties that are committed to developing stronger connections between K-12, post-secondary education and work experience that contribute to a strong economic future in local communities.

The funding distributed by CCSW was provided by Career Connect Washington (CCW), the state agency that oversees the nine regional networks that are responsible for growing regional career connected learning opportunities throughout the state. The funding is part of CCSW’s regional catalyst program, designed to attract and expand innovative programs that serve historically underrepresented (low-income, rural, BIPOC and Native American students), providing rigorous Career Connected Learning programs.

In an effort to provide the most efficient support to regional schools and organizations, CCSW opted to redistribute these funds directly to its regional partners, supporting the development of new events and experiences for K-12 students, allowing students to explore and prepare for high-demand, family-wage careers after graduating from high school.

“As a collective impact network, we know that the CCSW team cannot reach all the communities we need to on our own,” said Vickei Hrdina, Director of Career Readiness & STEM Initiatives at ESD 112. “The decision to redirect these funds to partners to design new programs was the best move to reach the most students as possible. We’re really thankful to Career Connect WA, our Board leadership and all the program partners who applied.”

One of the organizations to receive funding this winter included Gorge MakerSpace, an organization based in White Salmon, Washington, dedicated to providing makers of all ages the opportunity to learn the skills they need to build solutions to global, local, and personal challenges. With their $6,500 grant, they plan to provide an “Underwater ROV Experience for Girls”, making it possible for 15 middle and high school girls from White Salmon to spend a day at Oregon State University’s marine engineering lab with a female PhD student mentor. During their fieldtrip, the girls will learn about careers in underwater science and engineering, before continuing on to the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, to compete in a regional underwater ROV competition.

“There is a palpable excitement right now in the MakerSpace around this project funded by CCSW and CCW,” said Jack Perrin, Director of Gorge MakerSpace. “Girls are working on their underwater robots, getting ready for a community presentation and practicing for the regional competition next month. They come in after hours on their own to engage in a real-world STEM activity; this kind of experience will stay with them and serve them for years to come.”


Career Connect Southwest (CCSW) is one of nine regional career-connected learning networks under the larger Career Connect Washington (CCW), as well as a partner network of Washington STEM. Formerly known in the ESD 112 region as the Southwest Washington STEM Network, they have realigned their services to more effectively meet the career development needs of all of Southwest Washington’s youth.