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PCC and Partners Win National Award

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Community College, Wacker Siltronic Corp., the Portland Development Commission and Portland Public Schools were recently recognized by the National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET) for their pioneering efforts to build a Semiconductor Training Center at Benson High School and successfully train hundreds of disadvantaged and unemployed Portland residents for the semiconductor industry.

The team was named the Exemplary Program, Region X award winner at the national conference held in Boston, Nov. 3 at the JFK Presidential Library. The awards recognize outstanding achievement in continuing education and training programs nationwide.

The team receiving the award included: Nancy Chally, training and development manager and Dan Sempert, customized workforce training director, Portland Community College; Dennis Netsch, manufacturing operations director, Wacker Siltronic; Jess McKinley, project manager, Portland Development Commission; and John Vinglen, vice principal, Portland Public Schools.

"We are delighted with the award," said Jess McKinley of the PDC. "The best thing about this program and this partnership is that the training just keeps growing, surpassing our initial expectations."

Nancy Chally of Portland Community College, said, "The teamwork has been very successful … that climate of cooperation and working together has transferred to the trainees. We are now in the process of looking at future usage of the center – perhaps developing a clean room certification program, just one of many potential new uses."

The Semiconductor Training Center represents a unique partnership between private industry, schools and a public agency. The program is targeted to train unemployed and under-employed Portland residents for quality jobs at Wacker Siltronic that lead to economic self-sufficiency. In addition to the entry-level training, programs are offered at Wacker and at the training center to upgrade the skills of the operators so people can move upward to advanced operator and technical positions.

The entry-level program is a 12-week program consisting of 160 hours of training at the center, followed by eight weeks of on-the-job training at Wacker Siltronic. The curriculum was designed by PCC and Wacker. PCC faculty and Wacker staff also work together to deliver the training. All curriculum is based on the Wacker work setting and emphasized team work and an integrated approach to developing basic and technical skills, quality and continuous improvement.

The program, which began in April 1995, achieved significant results in its first 18 months of operation:

  • As of December 1996, 13 sessions of a 12-week entry-operator training had been conducted, with 484 individuals entering the training. Forty-five percent were residents of the enterprise zone in Northeast Portland.
  • Of those entering the program, 351 individuals had become regular hires at Wacker following on-the-job training.
  • Forty-two percent of the 351 regular hires are residents of the city’s enterprise zone.
  • The job retention rate of the regular hires is 86 percent. Only 48 of the 351 are no longer at Wacker. This is a 30 percent increase over the job retention rate experienced by Wacker prior to implementation of the Semiconductor Training Center.
  • The time it takes an individual to become a fully functioning operator has been reduced by 60 days. While this training and introduction of new employees has been going on, with approximately 40 new trainees placed on the job every five to six weeks, productivity at Wacker has actually increased.
  • Training costs at Wacker have been reduced by 30 to 50 percent for incoming employees, even though it has cost Wacker more than $3.6 million for trainee wages, temporary agency services, and the assignment of three trainers and one training manager full time at the Semiconductor Training Center.
  • Entry operators are paid throughout the training, which includes four weeks at the center and eight weeks on the job at Wacker.
  • 180 Wacker employees went through the work cell leader-technical operator training program.

A very successful on-going partnership has been created. As of October 1997, the number of individuals entering the program has increased to 845. Of those, 744 entered on-the-job training. And since the start of the project, 521 have been converted to regular employees. The retention rate, over a two and one-half year period, is 74 percent.

Additional partners to those already listed are the Oregon Economic Development Department and Brooks and Kelly temporary agencies.

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