Off Beat: Clark County Skills Center's offerings change with the times

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A lot goes into preparing students for jobs of the future. Reporter Susan Parrish highlighted the work being done by local educators in The Columbian's Dec. 2 package on "STEM" programs.

But there is another side to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. It can mean identifying jobs that might not have a future.

The Clark County Skills Center is preparing to launch an aviation technology program and worked with Pearson Air Museum to put on a summer session for local high schoolers.

But that's not how it started when the center envisioned a new building.

"We were planning on putting an auto body-collision repair program in there. It's been on our future project list for a number of years," director Dennis Kampe said.

After reviewing the occupational outlook for auto body and collision repair, "It was dismal," Kampe said.

They forecast a regional growth of one worker.

"There's a minimal job future in pounding out dents; it's all pull-out-and-replace," he said. "Portland Community College has a program that can satisfy the need for the region."

However, "Aviation was the highest area in this region," he said. "Statewide over the next 10 years, with retirements and new hires, there will be 85,000 jobs."

Into thin air

Local author Bill Alley has reminded us of other scientific, technological and engineering advances linked to Pearson.

Not the Pearson museum or the Pearson airport, but aviator Lt. Alex Pearson.

We carried a Washington Post story a week ago about how scientists don't agree on the age of the Grand Canyon.

There have been a lot of questions about the Grand Canyon over the years, and Lt. Pearson answered some of them, Alley said.

In 1921, he was the first pilot to fly into the Grand Canyon. Pilots feared that unpredictable air currents might smack you up against a canyon wall, Alley said.

"He flew through it and realized it was pretty tame."

Pearson flew 3,500 feet below the south rim and landed on the north rim at an altitude of 8,800 feet.

"You had to be a pretty good pilot in the thin air at that altitude, " Alley said.

— Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.