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Mayors celebrate PCC-Washington County partnerships
Photos and Story by James Hill
As Portland Community College begins $60 million worth of construction and improvements to the Rock Creek Campus on Springville Road via its Bond Program, three mayors of Washington County cities and numerous business leaders applauded the college’s other building work – partnerships.
“We all know jobs are what we are desperately seeking,” said Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle. “If we don’t provide jobs we are going to fall so far behind the world economy. The community college provides a very direct connection to our businesses and it’s a great tool to brag with when you are trying to convince somebody to bring a 10-person office or 50-person business here.”
At a recent 50th anniversary event honoring the college’s longstanding business and government partners, Mayor Doyle, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey and Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax, encouraged PCC to continue building on its partnerships with industry in Washington County. The mayors echoed the already fruitful liaisons the college has with Intel, SolarWorld and Genentech where PCC tailored workforce training to the companies’ needs. Genentech, along with fellow Westside bioscience firms HemCon and Welch Allyn, select students out of PCC’s bioscience technology short-term training program, which is housed at Rock Creek.
“Genentech needed some specific education training for their workforce and they went to PCC,” said Mayor Willey. “They and PCC developed classes to educate the workforce that they needed. They did the same thing with Intel. To me that is just amazing that a college as big as PCC, you can still sit down with the president and say this is what we need and they would design a course for your employment. That’s a partnership.”
Partners range from small business to international corporations
Intel Corporation provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to PCC’s Microelectronics Technology Program at Rock Creek and offers technical support in the form of donated equipment every year. In addition, Intel hires around 20 Microelectronics Technology students as interns while they attend classes every year.
“We needed more technicians to come to work at our factories and since the Rock Creek Campus is right here in our backyard in Washington County we reached out and said ‘Can you help co-design a microelectronics training program and if so we’d like to take as many of your graduates as we can,’” said Jill Eiland, Intel’s Corporate Affairs Manager for the Northwest Region. “We’re committed to the success of the program and the professors at PCC are committed to teaching real world skills.”
The partnerships are reinforced through support to students so they have the resources they need to complete their degrees or training. Twenty-five percent of PCC Foundation scholarship recipients come from Washington County and many of the scholarships are funded by county businesses like Heitzman Auto Body & Paint and Madden Industrial Craftsman, both Beaverton companies that are represented on training advisory boards at the college.
“Washington County is thriving,” said Rock Creek Campus President David Rule. “We have major cities that are attracting businesses and this is the place to be in all of Oregon. Washington County is key to our success here at Rock Creek. Washington County is 70 percent of our total enrollment. That’s critical for us.”
The partnerships based out of PCC’s Washington County locations are numerous. In addition to Intel and Genentech, the college worked with the largest photovoltaic manufacturer in the United States, SolarWorld AG, when it opened its 480,000-square-foot production plant to produce skilled, on-the-job trainers.
Other companies that hire graduates include Hillsboro’s Columbia Industries, which makes solid waste equipment and self-propelling systems for oil rigs, and hires students from PCC’s Welding Program. Its Managing Director, Jeff Van Raden, serves on the welding program’s advisory committee and is the PCC Foundation President. And Hillsboro Aviation allows Aviation Science Program students access to a FAA certified flight school at Hillsboro Airport.
PCC addresses underemployed, access to education
A few miles to the south at PCC’s brand new Willow Creek Center, the college’s Washington County Workforce Development Program runs the Entry Level High Tech Skills Training Program – a partnership between Vanguard-EMS of Beaverton, Precision Wire Components of Tualatin, Axiom Electronics of Beaverton and ViaSystems of Forest Grove. The Willow Creek Center (185th and Baseline Road) was opened at the end of 2009 as part of the college’s 2008 bond measure. The center serves as a one-stop for the unemployed and under-employed.
“We have to have an educated workforce to be successful in our communities,” Willey added. “And the way you do that is you work with organizations like PCC. We couldn’t be as successful as we are without those kinds of partnerships.”
Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax underscored that the partnerships don’t have to be corporate. A recent joint effort between Pacific University in Forest Grove and PCC allows the college to host credit courses at Pacific. In addition, PCC’s Dual Credit Program partners with Tualatin, Tigard, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Beaverton school districts to provide college-level classes for their high school students. A former PCC student and speech and communications instructor at Rock Creek, Truax said PCC is critical in preparing not only workforces, but future college students, too.
“It’s a benefit to me and hopefully to the students I taught in my classes, not only in speech classes at PCC, but also in the classes I taught later at Forest Grove High School and Neil Armstrong Middle School,” said Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax. “That’s just one example of how PCC ripples throughout the community. They have had 50 good years and I know they will have at least 50 more.”
To partners and community, ‘Battle for Rock Creek’ was worth it
Ever since the Rock Creek Campus started in 1976-77, thanks to the determination and grit of the college’s founding president Dr. Amo DeBernardis, the campus has grown rapidly from 600 students then to serving 25,800 students today, making it the fastest growing PCC campus. DeBernardis was adamant about extending that opportunity to residents of Washington County when he went against the conventional wisdom at the time in the well-known “Battle for Rock Creek.”
“The basis for our innovation, the ability to be creative, is when Rock Creek was started 35 years ago with the vision of our founding president Dr. DeBernardis who pushed, and cajoled and worked to have a campus here,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “And he had a lot of detractors about that vision who pushed back and said, ‘Now wait a minute there is nothing there. Nothing is going on. Why should we invest college money or public dollars to come out here?’ That value and vision of creativity and being out and accessible and being innovative remains one of our key values.”
For it’s 50th anniversary, the college is celebrating 50 years of creating educational opportunity for more than 1.3 million people by honoring and thanking the community this year with 50,000 hours of service projects. Already, the next 50 year’s infrastructure is being planned and started. The Bond Program will add roughly 120,000-square-feet of classroom, bookstore and study spaces, including a whole new academic division to bring the total to five at Rock Creek.
“When we talk about opportunity at PCC we are talking about opportunity for everyone no matter where they are from or their background,” said Pulliams.