Staff at Portland Community College’s Willow Creek Center rolled out the red carpet for two influential Oregon leaders on Monday, Oct. 8.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici toured the center to check out PCC’s workforce training programs and partnerships. At the end of the tour, the two members of Congress were able to interact with PCC students retraining for new healthcare careers. On hand to lead the tour was Board members Kali Thorne Ladd and Vice Chair Deanna Palm; Southeast Center President Jessica Howard; PCC’s Dean for Workforce and Economic Development Pamela Murray; and Workforce Development Manager Ken Dodge.
“PCC is a partner with the federal government and they are absolutely critical in providing the funding for workforce investment,” Howard told the two while introducing them to a class. “PCC is on the frontlines of getting Oregonians back to work in large part due to that funding.”
Sen. Wyden said the country is at a crossroads of federal education policy where education has always been good about providing access for students and fighting for Pell grants (In 2011-12, 15,973 PCC students were awarded about $86 million in federal Pell grants). But now, in addition to pushing access, Sen. Wyden said the focus will also be on value, too. For example, he introduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, where students can learn what they’ll earn in the field they are studying in.
“Here at PCC Preston Pulliams actually came out very strongly for it because he said the college wants to showcase what’s going on at PCC,” Sen. Wyden said. “We are giving people really good value. PCC is a perfect example of the success you can get if you make the right choice.
“When you get a degree here you can get through the doors because they care about access and we also want you to get value for your education and, boy, does PCC deliver that,” he continued.
The Willow Creek Center (185th and Baseline Road) in Washington County was opened at the end of 2009; its construction paid for by the college’s 2008 bond measure and special funding from the state. The 100,000 square-foot building houses the Washington County Workforce Training Center, which runs the WorkSource Portland Metro Beaverton/Hillsboro location. The center offers GED classes, certified nursing assistant training, medical assisting and emergency medical services.
U.S. Rep. Bonamici, in her job just eight months now and already the winner of the Congressional Award from the Council for Resource Development, is familiar with community colleges. She studied legal assisting at Lane Community College before transferring to the University of Oregon’s law school. She said her priority is also education, sponsoring the Workforce Infrastructure for Skilled Employees Act, which connects the community college’s workforce training to business needs.
“PCC is one of the examples where you really are doing that well with connecting the jobs with the training you are getting,” she said.
One of the students that Rep. Bonamici met with was Cindy Pomella, who is working toward a degree in the college’s Medical Assisting Program after being laid off at her job in the high-tech industry during the economic downturn. She saw that that medical assisting was growing and said that coming to PCC to re-train was a no-brainer.“I chose PCC because it’s a program that is highly recommended in the Portland area,” said Pomella, who is set to start an externship at Providence. “The program has been wonderful; it has opened a lot of doors.”
Willow Creek Center Statistics (2010-present):
- 865 National Career Readiness Certificates have been awarded to job seekers.
- There are 205 Washington County businesses that made commitments to using the On The Job (OJT) training program and 199 job seekers were placed into OJT opportunities.
- 257 job seekers accessed occupational skills training resources and services, and 75 percent went back to work.
- More than 2,240 received one-on-one career and job search advising services.
- 3,481 attended the High Tech Networking Group (a job club).
- The center’s SNAP employment program assisted 3,197 job seekers with job search resources, advising and referrals.
- Staff and partners worked to provide 3,300 job seekers with workshops on topics such as resume writing, interviewing, social media, job clubs and career exploration.