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Bush Visits Oregon, Lauds PCC Training Program
Photos and Story by James Hill
By Susan HerefordPORTLAND, Ore. – President Bush stopped in Oregon on Saturday, drumming up support for his economic stimulus plan and renewing the pledge to fight and conquer terrorism. As part of his visit to Portland, the president toured Portland Community College’s Northeast One Stop employment and training center, meeting with college officials, dislocated workers who are getting help, and with at-risk youth who are enrolled in the center in a GED class.Bush landed in Portland on Air Force One Saturday afternoon and after greeting local reservists and fire fighters, traveled by motorcade with Sen. Gordon Smith (Ore) to PCC’s One Stop Career Center, located in northeast Portland. The president, along with Smith, met in a round table discussion with PCC President Jesus "Jess" Carreon, several other PCC and workforce agency officials, and five dislocated workers enrolled in the college’s dislocated worker training program. During the round table talks, which were closed to media, Carreon noted that his message to the president emphasized the role community college’s play in economic development and workforce preparation."In my message to President Bush,"said Carreon, "I asked him to use the nation’s community colleges as a key vehicle in the implementation of his economic stimulus package to get America back to work and growing even stronger. He said he would."Carreon also told Bush that "Oregon is hurting. Hopefully, we can get additional dollars immediately to expand our training of dislocated workers."According to Carreon, Bush seemed well aware of the role and importance of community colleges in workforce development and told Carreon he was a "big supporter of community colleges."Mildred Ollee, who is executive dean of PCC’s Cascade Campus in inner-city Portland and who oversees adult and continuing education for the college, facilitated the round table discussion. She said Sen. Smith’s office approached PCC as part of the president’s two-stop tour of Southern California and Oregon because of Bush’s desire to view the work of a federally funded One Stop program. PCC operates five such centers in the Portland metro area and has helped approximately 20,000 adults in the past year through a wide slate of short-term education and training programs.Later that afternoon, Bush traveled to Parkrose High School and said to a crowd of 2,300 cheering people, "I went to a wonderful community college here in Portland with fine instructors who are trying so hard to help people help themselves."The president chose Oregon as a backdrop for pushing his economic proposals because Oregon is in a deep recession and currently leads the country in unemployment, 7.4 percent. The president’s visit to Portland gave PCC an opportunity to share the work the college is doing to help pull people off the unemployment rolls and get them back to work. Oregon’s dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the country and the first state to declare last fall that it was in a recession, means that PCC has been extremely busy. Enrollment in traditional training and education programs is up 10 percent from last year at the same time. The federally-funded workforce training centers are also packed. The PCC Dislocated Worker Program works with the One Stop center and has served as many people in three months, between July and September, as in all of the previous year. The college’s dislocated worker rapid response team is currently working with 16 area companies to help with layoffs and to get workers enrolled in short-term training and job-search services. Later in the afternoon in his speech at Parkrose High School, Bush again referenced the community college, telling the crowd that the additional unemployment dollars coming into Oregon starting Monday would help people like those he met at PCC. "I met with people ? They need these benefits, unemployment and health, so they can take care of themselves and their families. I talked with a chemical engineer and an electrical engineer."The chemical engineer he mentioned was Susan Harsany. Harsany, 24, who worked for Hewlett Packard and told the president that programs through PCC have kept her "spirits up."One program in particular is a high-tech job search support club located at one of PCC’s One Stops. There, Harsany and other laid-off workers meet to share job leads, upgrade their resumes, network with another and report weekly on their search. Another dislocated worker who met the president, Doyle McCranie, said of Bush, "He was as personable as I expected him to be. He was very interested in our personal situation and what was going on in our lives and he made a point of saying that Congress must work together to resolve issues and move forward."McCranie, who was laid off from Credence, a maker of automated test equipment for silicon wafers, is 43 and has two daughters. His wife is still working but he said they are spending savings. He told the president he has run out of unemployment benefits and for every job, he told the president that there are 100 to 500 applicants."I’m deeply concerned that Oregon is leading the country in unemployment,"Bush told the crowd at Parkrose High School."In tough times, people need an unemployment check, but in all times, they need a paycheck,"he said.