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Community College Survey to Open Up Job Opportunities

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Tillamook Bay Community College partners with local industry to offer workforce training programs. (Lynn Ketchum/Oregon State University)
Tillamook Bay Community College partners with local industry to offer workforce training programs. (Lynn Ketchum/Oregon State University)
December 15, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Millions of Americans are unemployed, and community and technical colleges could be key to getting them back to work. But one hurdle is a lack of data on the programs schools offer to retrain folks for new jobs.

To overcome this barrier, Opportunity America is surveying 1,100 institutions on the non-credit workforce development programs they offer to create a first-ever list of options nationwide.

Tillamook Bay Community College president Ross Tomlin said colleges such as his will be crucial to the retraining workers. He offered an example of his school's truck-driving course.

"With a month of training, they can go out and get a job making $50,000 or more - huge living-wage job," Tomlin said. "So those are the kind of things that community colleges can do, and we're built to be flexible and responsive to industry needs."

Tomlin said community colleges can start up programs within a matter of months depending on industries' needs. Tillamook Bay also offers manufacturing and industrial-technology programs that partner with local industry, such as the Tillamook Creamery.

President of Opportunity America Tamar Jacoby said there's been a revolution over the past decade in how colleges, high schools and employers train people for the workforce, streamlining the way folks go through programs.

"Don't make the people necessarily sit here for two years and learn a lot of stuff that isn't relevant," Jacoby said. "They can come back later if they want a degree, but right now, they need a job. It's about making sure that the institution is actually preparing people for jobs in demand."

Jacoby hopes the survey data will be helpful to state lawmakers, who are making education-related budget decisions.

"If we can give you that information, that could generate funding for more of these kinds of programs, it would help learners, it would help the college, and it would help the businesses that need a new kind of worker," she said.

Oregon lawmakers head back to the Capitol on Jan. 11.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR