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PCC earns $540,000 grant to give underemployed a career reboot
Photos and Story by James Hill
For many under and unemployed workers in the Portland area, they now can get a reboot on their careers.
Portland Community College was awarded a three-year $540,000 grant from Worksystems, Inc. (WSI) to establish the Reboot Northwest: Career Link Coordination Program. PCC will design and offer Career Link courses to long-term unemployed and underemployed workers in Multnomah and Washington counties, enrolling students this summer. In addition to Career Link, which has manufacturing and information technology paths, students will get a career coach/case manager to help them enroll in training, stay in school, get referrals to community resources and find job openings. In addition, there are training funds to assist with their general education.
Career Link is a non-credit three-week, 75-hour career exploration and career learning experience. The courses will provide an introduction to careers in the two industries. Students enrolled will get industry tours and learn of employment opportunities and career paths in the two sectors from employers. PCC will also contract with Mt. Hood Community College to offer services in east Multnomah County.
A tri-county regional initiative, Reboot Northwest is a Department of Labor strategy to train the local workforce to fill these vacancies rather than having companies import talent from outside of Oregon and the U.S. It specifically targets long-term unemployed (unemployed for six-months or longer) and is available for underemployed workers who were laid off in the 2008 recession and are now earning less than before getting dislocated. Military veterans are also a targeted group.
“The long-term unemployed often need to reboot when an old approach has stalled, with the best option being a fresh start,” said Amy Youngflesh, PCC’s Workforce Development director. “Reboot Northwest will get the long-term unemployed back to work in a new way by employing immediate, hands-on, practical and cohort-collaborative approaches. After the course, students will create a peer networking group to support them as they pursue education or job search.”Youngflesh estimates that 600 people will be enrolled in Career Link courses during the three years of the grant. She added that Reboot Northwest coaches are located at all five Worksource centers in the area, including the Willow Creek Center (241 SW Edgeway Drive, Beaverton). People can register by visiting the website http://www.rebootnw.org/.
Youngflesh said there is great need for these programs in Portland as the IT and manufacturing sectors are a priority for the local economy. She said these jobs represent more than 12 percent of private sector employment (approximately 112,000 jobs) in the region, a sector that grew by 4.2 percent last year. It’s estimated to grow by 32 percent during the next decade. Since 2009, local companies have applied for H-1B foreign visas to fill these vacancies. In the Portland Metro area, more than 22,000 job seekers in the two targeted industries have been unemployed longer than six months.
“Studies have shown job search activity declines steeply over the spell of unemployment,” Youngflesh continued. “Career Link provides a forum for people to develop a regular routine and gain ownership of job training. It’s designed to act as a springboard that will launch students into new or revamped careers. It creates supportive peer networks, exposes participants to available postsecondary training and certification options, and employers.”
Employers are a big part of the project, assisting with industry tours and serving as guest speakers in class. Plus, a steering committee comprised of local area employers and educational providers will help develop curriculum. Students graduating from manufacturing and IT programs at PCC and MHCC will be recruited for the program if they have experienced a lay off from an IT or manufacturing job. Career Link will help graduates meet potential employers, create employment strategies and become part of a peer support group after the course.
“By partnering with MHCC, it will be a seamless program and students can experience the same course no matter where they live,” Youngflesh added.
For information regarding this grant, call (971) 722-2236, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.