Volume XVII | Issue 2 | Fall 2017
Baker Technical Institute recently launched a heavy equipment training program which makes use of simulators.

Baker Technical Institute

Career technical instruction meets the needs of employers in Eastern Oregon

Adjacent to Baker High School, the Baker Technical Institute announces its mission with a bold sign: “Next generation education for thriving communities.”

The Institute began four years ago with a problem and a vision. The problem was the same one faced by many of Oregon’s and Northern California’s rural communities: an isolated workforce that did not have the skills for high-paying jobs, or the resources available to provide them. The vision was to create access to these skills in a way that would contribute to the economic vitality of the entire Eastern Oregon region.

The result was Baker Technical Institute which, in partnership with the Baker School District, offers high school students and adult community members a full slate of career technical instruction that meets the needs of regional employers.

How did BTI get there? By being intentional about meeting the current and future needs of the community and its employers. 

Filling the gap

“We put a handful of the visionaries in industry around us and ask them, ‘What is the next generation of jobs coming, and what are the skill sets in the workforce today, and what is the gap?’ Then we just sit and listen – that process basically gives us our marching orders,” explains Doug Dalton, BTI president.

BTI works with business leaders in industries all over Eastern Oregon to strategically develop curriculum in fields such as welding, engineering, agriculture, heavy equipment operation, health services, natural resources and construction. 

“BTI is really creative in figuring out how to make the most of what they have,” says Denise Callahan, The Ford Family Foundation’s director of Postsecondary Success, “and the approach that they take in developing the program is very focused on the long term.”

With support from Caterpillar simulators, other businesses and organizations such as The Ford Family Foundation, BTI recently launched a new Heavy Equipment Operator career pathway. Dalton describes the program’s high-tech mobile simulators as “really next-gen education when it comes to heavy equipment training.” 

A course began in September for students at Baker High School, and organizers plan to launch a series of classes for adult community members in late fall. The course is a combination of simulator training and time on the real equipment. A 30-foot trailer allows the simulators to travel wherever they are needed in the region. 

“Anytime we consider a new career pathway, we take a long look at demand, job growth and impact on the economy of Eastern Oregon,” Dalton says. “And we go where the need is.” 

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