As the school year comes to a close, many seniors—especially those who aren’t planning on attending college—are grappling with that all-consuming question: what now?

“A lack of knowledge is what’s hurting the kids,” says John LeMarte, business solutions consultant for WorkSource Vancouver. He’s referring to the Harvard study that predicts in 2018 57% of jobs will be skilled, requiring a certificate or two-year degree; compared to 33% of jobs that will require a four-year degree.

For starting wages, LeMarte notes that trade jobs offer at least $5 more per hour than service or retail jobs. For students looking to go right into the workforce after high school, that’s a significant bump.

The lack of student knowledge about trade jobs hurts employers too, as many local manufacturers struggle to find workers for entry-level positions. SEH America, a global producer of semiconductor silicon, is one such company. Its Vancouver facility grows silicon crystals and processes them into silicon wafers, and it provides training and development for numerous positions, such as Production Machine Operator and Materials Management.

“Our high school internships and post-high school jobs are available to all–not just engineering majors,” says Natalie Pacholl, Training & Development Specialist for SEH.

The manufacturing positions offered by SEH and others include a host of benefits beyond just the higher pay and steady, full time hours, including education benefits. “Students hired will have the opportunity to use their benefits to attend school as well, if they want,” says Pacholl.

Providing youth the opportunity to interview for a lot of trade jobs in one place, was one of the goals of the third annual Manufacturing Hiring Event that took place on May 24th. Supported by the SW Washington STEM Network, WorkSource Vancouver and Partners in Careers, the event was open to high school seniors who would be 18 years-old by graduation.

Evergreen High School senior Skye Jacobson was one of about 80 students talking to the 11 employers present at the hiring fair. Through the CTE program at school, she applied for a manufacturing engineering internship at SEH America.

“Without this program, I would only have childcare experience,” Jacobson says. With her interest in chemical engineering, SEH created an internship for her in the silicon lab, where she analyzed data and did some trouble shooting to make things more efficient. She and her SEH mentor created a self-cleaning device for one of the machines. “We saved 60 man-hours a year,” she beams, saying she got to sit in with chemists, engineers and others to brainstorm.

The Manufacturing Hiring Event had as many as 100 jobs as well as some paid internships for students to look into. LeMarte says they plan to grow the event to offer even more opportunities.

Corey Van Brunt, CTE Coordinator for Evergreen Public Schools, and Skye Jacobson at the hiring fair.

“This is such a great opportunity,” says Jacobson, who secured a paid internship with SEH this summer before going to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York in the fall to study chemical engineering. Whether planning to work right out of high school or get post-secondary training and education, she encourages other students to check out the CTE programs in their schools, attend fairs like this one, and apply for internships to get more relevant work experience. “Whatever you put into it, you’ll get out of it.”