This content was published: September 23, 2014. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
PCC opens new center for Swan Island industry
Photos and Story by James Hill
The Portland Community College Swan Island Trades Center is open for business.
On Wednesday, Sept. 17, business leaders and college officials hosted a grand opening ceremony at the new center, 6400 N. Cutter Circle. In front of hundreds of interested onlookers, PCC President Jeremy Brown, PCC Board Chair Deanna Palm, Cascade Campus President Karin Edwards and Swan Island Business Association Executive Director Sarah Angell officially cut the ribbon on PCC’s new Swan Island location, which opened for classes on Monday, Sept. 22.
“We have to establish a pipeline to ensure that when the jobs are there we have the people to fill those jobs with the skills that are needed,” Brown said. “Our economic strength and vitality depends on an educated and developed pool of diverse and skilled workers who are connected to, and engaged with, our community. PCC is providing the skills and the job training for more than 20 different occupations in the trades. This is significant; this is exciting; and this is our future.”
This project is part of the college’s 2008 voter-approved $374 million capital construction bond with $3.6 million going toward the development of the Swan Island Trades Center (plus $1 million earmarked from the state of Oregon.). The ribbon cutting, open house and luncheon was organized in partnership with the Swan Island Business Association. SIBA partners with members to facilitate economic development on Swan Island, strengthen ties to adjacent neighborhoods by connecting residents to jobs on Swan Island and promotes awareness of community resources.
The primary focus of the new Swan Island Trades Center is the Trades & Industry Department, which moved to the new facility this summer from nearby Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St. With a growing enrollment of 700 students, the department now has expanded space, integrated classrooms and upgraded technology to enhance training. The department includes Facilities Maintenance/HVAC-R, Fiber Optics, Pre-Apprenticeship and Electrical Trades programs. These offerings add to the training services provided by the college through its welding lab located nearby at Vigor Industrial (5555 N Channel Ave.).
“PCC has been a great partner and has demonstrated its commitment to working with industry to maximize the value of its educational offerings,” said Alan Sprott, vice president of Vigor. “The opening of this new facility is the continuation of PCC executing on its vision and strategy to provide the opportunities for people to build successful lives by matching their educational programs with the needs of employers.”
Degrees offered at Swan Island include the Facilities Maintenance Technology two-year degree; Facilities Maintenance Technology and HVAC Installers certificates; Millwright, Industrial Mechanics, Limited Maintenance Electrician, Manufacturing Plant Electrician and Stationary Engineer apprenticeships; and the Limited Building Maintenance Electrician training program.
Along with leadership from Cascade and expertise from PCC’s CLIMB Center, Swan Island will be a resource for continuing education, training, retraining and professional development for Swan Island businesses. CLIMB will share a general classroom and a computer lab with the Trades & Industry programs.
“We happen to live at a time when the economy is really expanding rapidly and that’s certainly the case for us,” said Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland. “There is a great fear about whether or not we’re going to have a qualified workforce to construct all of the facilities we see in our line of sight. This facility will be immensely helpful to us. I’m so grateful to PCC for the vision and the will to create this.”
The PCC bond program is constructing and renovating buildings to expand learning areas, working space, program labs and general classrooms all across the PCC district. At Swan Island, the college had a vision of creating a trades education center and purchased the 6400 N. Cutter Circle property in 2010. The five-acre parcel, which was formerly used as a motor pool facility by the state of Oregon, is perfect for PCC as it is situated in the heart of the Swan Island industrial and manufacturing community.
These days, few people can wipe that big grin off of Rick Willebrand’s face. On the day of the grand opening and public open house, the Trades & Industry instructor was busy giving tours to college staff, administration and business partners. Swan Island will provide his department with more education space to the tune of 20,000 square feet and integrated classrooms that have donated technology and software. For instance, students can now work in an expanded computer lab that connects directly to an HVAC room just down the hall where they can control an army of upgraded furnaces and air conditioners.
“We’ve never been able to do this before,” Willebrand said. “We’ve upgraded that classroom from eight to 21 computers. It will be tied in now with that HVAC lab so students can sit here in the computer lab and enter keystrokes and find out whether or not they’ve done it right.”
In addition, the Programmable Logic Controller lab the department uses is much bigger and all of the classrooms have new smart podiums and features (the PLC lab has high-sitting chairs for better over-the shoulder training). The equipment for the programs are donated by industry, including $700,000 worth of fiber optics technology, which Willebrand said will help prepare students for jobs connected to Google’s push to upgrade fiber optics equipment. Everywhere one looks, there’s equipment and technology at the Swan Island Trades Center, and Willebrand said there will be more coming.
“We buy real and working equipment instead of trainers,” he said. “This technology is changing every year because of the electronics and controls. We certainly now have the space to start upgrading even more.”