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National Skills Coalition chooses PCC-led initiative to support low-income students

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Students in Maritime Welding Career Pathways.

Oregon’s Pathways to Opportunity initiative, led by Portland Community College, has been selected by the National Skills Coalition to take part in its SkillSPAN and the Supportive Services Academy projects. Pathways to Opportunity is a coalition of Oregon’s 17 community colleges, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and state partners that are closing the opportunity gap and increasing economic mobility among low-income and underrepresented students in the state.

Oregon is one of five state teams (others are Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio) that will participate in the 2020 Supportive Services Academy. The academy will guide state teams on advancing policies to expand access to support services so that people with lower incomes can complete their education or training programs. Teams will focus on braiding federal, state, and private funds to build career pathways programs, skills training and policies that spur access to SNAP, childcare and emergency funds.

Through the SkillSPAN Program, Pathways to Opportunity will receive technical assistance and the chance to work with 19 other states focused on closing opportunity gaps and increasing economic mobility for low-income and underrepresented residents and students. The project will expand skills training for thousands of people through state policy changes and boost local business and economies. 

“We are setting a precedent for how community colleges can lead anti-poverty efforts by leveraging resources and collaborating with state agencies, anti-poverty advocates, community-based organizations, and industry partners,” said Kate Kinder, PCC’s director of Career Pathways & Skills. “Not only will these efforts be seamlessly integrated into Pathways to Opportunity, but they will also align with the statewide work that is going on to measure and increase adult postsecondary credential attainment.”

In 2018, the State Legislature passed HB4043, which called on community colleges to study the financial constraints facing students and how to increase access to federal, state and local benefits to support college access and completion for low-income students. As a result, the Pathways to Opportunity initiative was launched with PCC serving as lead. The initiative includes many community-based partners, as well as the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The National Skills Coalition is a broad-based coalition of business, community colleges and public workforce systems that are working on economic growth across the country by investing in worker training. It has more than 28,000 members, representing organizations in 50 states.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »