Volume XVII | Issue 2 | Fall 2017
Scott Ballard oversees Pipeline participants as they use a yoke tester to perform a magnetic particle test on a sample of steel.

Education for Job Readiness

Grants support education after high school, focus on work preparation

It should come as no surprise that an integral part of the Eastern Linn County Pipeline, an industry-directed job-training program, is education. After all, the goal of the initiative, led by business leaders in the greater Albany area and Chamber of Commerce, school districts and Linn-Benton Community College, is to prepare area students to fill the highly skilled, family-wage trade jobs readily available in the region. 

What is surprising is that much of the educational effort is showing that success can take many educational paths; a four-year college is not always required.

“Part of this project is a marketing effort to educate the community, particularly students and their families and their teachers, that there are these amazing jobs in great companies,” says Bruce Clemetsen, vice president of student affairs at Linn-Benton. 

“We want them to know that if you do well in high school and you go to community college and are a committed student, there is a job waiting for you that will let you buy a house, raise a family and be a part of your community.”

The pipeline project is just one of several programs around the state and soon in Siskiyou County, Calif., supported by The Ford Family Foundation’s Education for Job Readiness program. 

The program invests in efforts that support rural residents’ continued education after high school and prepares them for work.

“A four-year college degree is not the only path to employment following high school, and many students are finding success with technical training, apprenticeships, job skills programs and community college degrees,” says Denise Callahan, the Foundation’s director for Postsecondary Success. 

Different strategies

The job-readiness strategy looks different for different communities. On the north coast, a Foundation grant supports construction of an 11,000-square-foot building for Tillamook Bay Community College. The building is home to the Agriculture and Natural Resources associate degree program. 

But that’s not all — it will also house the Oregon State University Open Campus program, the Small Business Development Center, the Tillamook Tourism office, the Tillamook Economic Development Council and the OSU Extension program.  

As the project brings these community programs under one roof — called the Partners for Rural Innovation Center  — it aims to leverage the synergy created among the groups to chart a more coordinated path from community college to local careers.

Strong partnerships

In rural communities, strong partnerships across sectors, like the one in Tillamook, are crucial to creating paths of opportunity for students. 

Partnerships certainly are the operative piece of the Eastern Linn County Pipeline. The pipeline project began four years ago, as major manufacturers in the area looked into the future and realized that significant numbers of jobs were in danger of going unfilled. The Albany Chamber of Commerce acts as the connector for participating organizations, which include Linn-Benton, schools and a host of businesses.

This year, the project is looking at significantly expanding its reach to students in the greater Albany area. The Chamber will add a second coordinator to focus on all four rural area school districts, help coordinate student tours of local businesses and other events, and identify businesses in eastern Linn County that may want to participate.

As many as 20 events are planned throughout the next school year, including plant tours and a Girls Explorer Camp on the college campus. Activities are designed to give kids a look at different jobs and information about the skills and education necessary to get them, as well as hands-on activities.

“You go on a tour, you see people making space station parts or running the robotics in a national frozen-food processing plant, then you come to the campus and you see the same equipment and learn how to do something you saw in the businesses,” Clemetsen explains. 

The project team also plans to bring high school and middle school teachers on business and college tours. The activity, done with other teachers, generates new understanding of the possibilities for good jobs and the type of education required. 

“We really try to wow them,” Clemetsen says. “Many teachers have not experienced manufacturing, so they can’t talk about career technical education or agriculture the way they can the four-year track. It expands their ability to talk to students about more options.”  

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