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Margaret Carter Skills Center hosting open house with hands-on activities

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Cascade Campus

The Cascade Campus in North Portland.

The Community Arts and Technology Studio Program (CATS), which is part of the Margaret Carter Skill Center at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus in North Portland, is holding an open house from noon to 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21, in Room 124, Technology Education Building. Attendees will be able to meet staff and students, get an idea of the range of educational options available to them, and take part in some hands-on activities and demonstrations.

“Our goal is to meet people where they are, and learn what they need,” said Rakeem Washington, director of the Skill Center. “We want our doors to remain open for folks in the community who haven’t always had access to education.”

The Margaret Carter Skill Center prepares students for college and career readiness. The Skill Center provides open access to underrepresented individuals who are seeking to increase opportunities for educational advancement, personal growth, and workplace success. The center provides content in critical thinking and problem solving, communication strategies, computer literacy, quantitative reasoning, professionalism, and life planning. In addition, it connects students with campus and community resources so that they can address barriers to success and to employment opportunities through education.

Drone being assembled

A student assembles a drone.

“We just want to create access for our most vulnerable communities,” he said.

For decades, the Skill Center has provided a point of entry into the higher education system for members of the community who have fallen through society’s cracks, helping them to transition to the workplace or into PCC’s mainstream student population. Recently, though, the program has reconfigured its academic offerings to focus on science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) related skill sets, in order to better address the demands of the modern workplace. 

And in order to better address the realities of its students’ lives, the Skill Center is now making its courses available in smaller, easier-to-schedule, easier-to-complete “chunks.” Where a standard PCC course might offer three or four college credits and take an entire quarter to complete, students will soon be able take a course through the Skill Center that offers one college credit and is over in a matter of three or four weeks.

“Our hope is to introduce students to a career pathway in a way that doesn’t require a term-long investment,” explained Washington, who said that the single-credit classes enable students to sample a number of different options before they commit to a career choice.

The Skill Center currently offers one-credit classes in STEAM courses with emphasis on drone building, coding, laser cutting, 3D printing, and robotics, with plans to add more offerings over the next year. The course selection has proven quite popular with Skill Center students who want to progress in the workplace.

“Lots of our students really enjoy working with their hands, and are pretty good at it,” said Julie Stocker, education coordinator for the Opening Doors Project at the Skill Center. “They just need a space to work in, the right equipment, and time to practice.”

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