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‘Pursuit of Employment’ shows job seekers they aren’t alone

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Earlier this month, hundreds of local job seekers convened at the Cascade Campus for something much different from a job fair.

PCC’s Workforce Development Program held its second Pursuit of Employment at the campus’ Moriarty Arts and Humanities Auditorium. The event, which occurs each term at the campus, is designed to bring inspiration and motivation to job seekers who may have hit a roadblock in their search for work and need encouragement. Attendees get to hear from local motivational speakers who conveyed their experiences.

Left to right, Tracee Wells and Rita White, both employment specialists with PCC’s Workforce Development Program, say the Pursuit of Employment event is great for job seekers like Joyce Phelps, who need support to get through challenging times.

One of the speakers was Ken Berry, a 40-year teacher and administrator for Portland Public Schools and a product of Portland Community College.

“We all need a boost,” said Berry, who runs the Martin Luther King Program’s choir through PPS. “One thing I try to share with the group is that we all have resources around us and regardless of what our challenges are, our goals are attainable. A lot of people are going through challenging times, but the more individuals surround themselves with others that are motivational and provide support, the better.”

Bennie Hill, in her 60s, attended the PCC employment event and said it indeed gave her a boost. Hill, who works as a hairdresser and is interested in becoming an entrepreneur, has explored PCC to get more administrative skills and wants to learn more about business plans. She’s been to both Pursuit of Employment get-togethers and has seen a tremendous growth in the concept.

“The first time (in May) hardly anyone came, but now it’s crowded and there are almost no seats available,” Hill said. “The first time was great and it’s still great. You get the information you don’t often hear; it’s personal. They make you feel more comfortable. I wanted to hear the positive feedback and encouragement and see the hopeful faces in the audience. I often encourage people to come to these events. When I get fliers I tell them about it. Now the word is out that PCC gives out some good stuff.”

That is music to the ears of Tracee Wells, who is an employment specialist with PCC’s Workforce Development Program and is a certified life coach, trainer and career placement specialist. She said that eight out of every 10 jobs are filled via networking.

“I find the event very motivational because it brings us back to the power of community,” Wells said. “I think it’s been kind of under-utilized and now that we are in some really challenging economic times, we are seeing that come together. People who attend see that they are not alone and that other job seekers are facing some similar challenges.”

Wells said the Pursuit of Employment offers a different way for people to develop their job search skills versus what is usually offered at job fairs. She said this event gives job seekers a way to build relationships and find support.

“With job fairs, we are always pushing business cards, pushing résumés and we don’t get a chance to share stories,” she said. “We don’t get a chance to give resources out and redirect and get those little exchanges where you can build a mentoring relationship. Going to work is a lot more than just submitting my résumé; it’s about me building a bridge, building relationships and having the power of connection.”

North Portland hairstylist Bennie Hill is using the Pursuit of Employment to help her find a new career in business.

There were plenty of connections at the recent Pursuit of Employment. Community leaders and speakers included Roy Jay (Project Clean Slate), Melissa Ballard (Supportive Employment Coordinator from JOIN), Eddie Lincoln (PCC’s Workforce Network and Project Enterprise Coordinator), April Johnson (PCC alumna) and Frank Harris (associate facilities manager).

“Many times we limit how much effort we put into ourselves when we are working on a project yet we expect a different outcome,” Harris told the crowd of nearly 200. “Know the true value of time. Be prepared. Make every opportunity count. So, in everything you do, be committed to yourself and give it your best shot.”

Ken Berry, the 40-year veteran of Portland Public Schools, emphasized the power of having an education in that preparation for finding a job. He worked at KGW radio as a disc jockey while taking classes at PCC’s then new Sylvania Campus in southwest Portland. He graduated from the University of Oregon’s Teacher Corps Program and spent the majority of his 40-year educational career serving as a reading specialist, teacher or principal for such schools as Adams, Benson, Cleveland, Jefferson and Franklin high schools, in addition to Clinton Street, Whitaker Elementary, Meek, Irvington and Ockley Green schools.

“My foundation started right here at PCC and got me started on the right path in 1967,” Berry said. “I’m a product of PCC after going to Jefferson High School across the street. I learned from a special councilor who found that I was not able to read when I graduated from high school. So she took me on and she spent six months to make sure I was able to read so I would be success in school. I’m a product of PCC and proud of it.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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