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PCC quickly responds with tailored courses
Photos and Story by James Hill
by James HillWhen the community needs help, Portland Community College is there. One can look no further than the timely response and services provided by the Institute for Management and Professional Development and Community Education departments. Because of the recent downturn in the economy and the tragedy on Sept. 11, PCC has leaped into action to help dislocated workers get back on track.IMPD has responded quickly by reformulating classes in a logical series at the Central Portland Workforce Training Center that run through March. The first four, called "Career Track,"deal with switching gears into a job-search mode, including strategies to develop personal power, creating resumes and cover letters, self-marketing and interviews, and effective job-search strategies. The last four, "Changing Times for Changing People,"centers on communication skills, managing time and priorities and how to reduce stress. The courses involve instructors guiding students through four-hour, one-day workshops."When people lose their jobs, they go back to school,"said Carmen Lawyer, education program coordinator at IMPD. "One woman who I talked to said her whole floor at their business found out that they were laid off. Even though she has a bachelor’s degree, she’s come back and is focusing on a new direction with these courses."PCC’s Community Education program has hosted noon lecture series for years throughout the district dealing with professional development issues. The topics are critical for anyone facing a job loss or who is searching for guidance on a new career.Rickey Koehler, a psychologist who has taught classes for PCC, has seen an increase in student enrollment since the recession began. Her fall class, "The Process of Change,"held at the Cedar Mill Community Library, focused on how people can change their luck for the better."People want to make changes in their lives at this critical time,"Koehler said. "The change may be professionally or in their private lives. They realize that, step by step, they are only part of an evolution and not at a dead end."This winter, PCC Community Education will have free noon lectures at the Multnomah County Library on Thursdays and another series at minimal cost ($2 per lecture) at Nature’s Northwest in Lake Oswego on Wednesdays. People bring their own lunch and essentially brown-bag it while getting key professional development ideas in a fun and creative manner.At the Multnomah County Library, the six-week series covers such topics as, "Surviving Life with Humor,""Power for Gentle People,""Staying Calm in Crisis"and "Communicating Under Stress."In Lake Oswego, the aim will be on working as a team and improving productivity, items that are popular for businesses. Topics include, "One on One Conflict Resolution,""Rapport Building Skills?, "Wild Successes: Surviving the Leadership Jungle,"and "Determining the Difference Between Wants and Needs."In Beaverton, Community Education will also host a ten-week lecture program, "Career Change Series,"to help people focus on finding a new job. Topics include finding the hidden job market, introductions and networking, informational interviews, resumes and cover letters, interviewing skills and personal support. The non-credit lectures are designed to help people find a new career path. The lectures will be held on Thursdays at Whitford Middle School, 7935 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road.Peter Leonard, the director of the Cedar Mill Community Library, will continue to work with PCC to bring classes to his library. "We’re thrilled to host it. It fits in with what the library likes to do." College Helps Attract New Business PCC not only helps companies train their workforce, it also helps create jobs by helping bring new companies to the Portland area. The Customized and Workplace Training (CWT) department is on a regional team with the Portland Development Commission and the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department to assist companies looking to relocate or set up part of their business in the area. In the 1980s, PCC helped the German company Wacker Siltronic come to Portland. In the 1990s, Pasco (Japanese food manufacturer), IDT (a digital-technology company) and ANI Welded Tube Company also relocated to the city with help from PCC.Last year, PCC joined the new Washington County Workforce Alliance, a collection of government entities that companies can turn to for help. Currently, the group is actively recruiting several companies to the area.Businesses often look at several cities – and to better sell Portland to them, an ad hoc team, including staff from PCC, forms to present a positive picture of the city and region. The committee researches the economic climate, infrastructure, sewer lines, policies, tax situation and training needs of the area. Company representatives even take tours of PCC campuses and training centers as part of their search. "We talk about what of kind training resources are available,"said Paul Wild, CWT manager. "That can often be a large part for a company and it won’t be interested in settling in an area if they can’t find people capable of doing the work. We find out specific training needs and do our best to let them know if that can be done."Wild also said that newly formed organizations like the Washington County Workforce Alliance will make it easier for companies to make the move to Oregon. Because the United States has so many layers of governments to deal with, companies need help, explained Wild. "The alliance is the place to call for one-stop shopping for a business,"he said.