Make the McKenzie Connection!

$2.6 Million to expand career- connected learning across Oregon

The Lane Education Service District and Southern Oregon Oregon Education Service District (ESD) were recently awarded $2.6 million+ in grant funding from the Oregon Department of Education through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) fund. With this new funding, Lane and Southern ESDs have partnered with the Mid-Willamette Educational Consortium to create and pilot Team Oregon Build, expanding upon the existing Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs already operating in these regions. The expansion encompasses areas impacted by recent wildfires, including the Southern Oregon Education Service District and Mid-Willamette Educational Consortium.

Team Oregon Build (TOB) is an innovative partnership between education, industry, state, and community to introduce youth to career pathways within high-wage and high-demand construction trades.

“Every aspect of Team Oregon Build is working towards a better future. CTE Construction teachers are receiving curriculum and material support, while students can see the connection from the classroom instruction to directly helping solve big community issues,” said Shareen Vogel, CTE Regional Coordinator, Lane Education Service District.

“These students are the skilled workforce that our industry partners have been asking for. Through hands-on experiences in the trades, Oregon youth are gaining skills that go beyond any textbook or classroom course,” said Jesse Quinn, Director of Community Engagement, at Lane Workforce Partnership “So far, what I have seen from our students is hard work and engagement; they are willing and want to learn,” said Keith Howard, Prospect Charter School CTE Instructor in Medford. “ Just opens the door for opportunity; they learn about the different trades, and it expands their capabilities after high school.”

“Makes me feel proud and a sense of pride. You feel like it’s going to do something good in life, and it just makes you feel happy knowing it’s going to be there for a while,” said High School Senior Jonathan Cortez, who is attending the Willamette Career Academy in Salem.

“I enjoy working on Team Oregon Build because it builds more community around this area, and we need that right now,” said Cassy Fisher, 8th grader at Briggs Middle School. “It also helps people in 8th grade can start committing to the community more before they’re in High School.”

With the new funding, regions across the State will expand programming, doubling the number of participating schools from 19 to over 39, thereby significantly enhancing the program’s reach throughout the state. More than 3,800 students across three regions will participate in hands-on construction projects, building transitional shelters and sheds as well as supplementary structures like garden beds, chairs, and picnic tables, gaining practical skills while contributing to their communities.

“The building is just a piece of it, and each student brings different skills to the table as they learn how to put this together,” said Kurt Huller, CTE Instructor at Willamette Career Academy. “As we talk to people in the industry, swinging the hammer is just a piece of it; it’s the customer service piece. It’s delivering what you say you’re going to deliver, showing up and completing something on a schedule, and meeting somebody’s needs is huge.”

“I loved working on these types of projects. especially to hear that it’s going to improve someone’s life and not just have them living out on the streets. It makes me feel happy for myself to see or drive by somewhere and be like, oh, hey, I built one of those,” said Matthew Duncan, a Senior also attending Willamette Career Academy in Salem.

“It’s been a huge change for my life; it’s my home, and I could never be more grateful,” said Laura Hart, Everyone Village resident. Hart is living in a home constructed by students. “I plan on wanting to go there with my parents to show them what we did in the future,” said Fisher.

Team Oregon Build also collaborates closely with partners like the Workforce Talent Development Board, Oregon Department of Education, and Oregon Housing and Community Services. This teamwork helps provide students with real, hands-on experiences that aren’t just educational but genuinely reflect the professional world.

Through this regional work-based learning demonstration, students will:

* Engage in real-world problem-solving in construction projects.

* Explore various career pathways in design, architecture, construction trades, and disaster recovery.

* Develop talents and acquire skills for high-wage, family-sustaining careers.

* Contribute to addressing statewide and national challenges such as pandemics, wildfires, and the housing crisis.

* Experience a sense of belonging and connection through community healing and resilience initiatives.


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