PCC’s new On Ramps series provides pathways to careers in industry
In a perfect world, college recruitment would work something like this: Each prospective student, knowing exactly how they wanted to progress toward their educational and career goals, would choose from an array of degree programs based on a crystal-clear understanding of what that choice would entail.
But as anyone who works in higher education can tell you, the world is far from perfect.
Fortunately, Portland Community College has a plan to nudge the world toward perfection. Its Community Workforce Development (CWD) office has developed a series of innovative preparatory services to help students bridge the gap between thinking about training for a new career and actually doing it. The On-Ramps to Trades series — industry-focused, skills-based courses — are designed to expose would-be students to the career opportunities available to them through PCC’s career-technical education (CTE) programs.
On Ramps Series
PCC’s Community Workforce Development office has created the On-Ramps series, which is an industry-focused, skills-based slate of courses designed to expose would-be students to the career opportunities available to them through PCC’s career-technical education (CTE) programs.
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“The On-Ramps series provides a safe learning environment for participants to explore careers,” explained Kali Giaritta, a PCC employment specialist. “They will set educational goals and brush up on the basic math, reading and digital literacy skills they need to enter programs and practice fundamental education and workplace skills.”
The On-Ramp to Trades courses are an outgrowth of a $2.25 million Title III grant to PCC’s Reimagining Integrated Support for Equitable Success (RISES) Project, intended to support the implementation of the college’s Guided Pathways initiative. On-Ramps were conceived as a way to put the grant to work by helping students connect with a CTE program that aligns with their interests and career aspirations.
“CWD collaborates with many local non-profit agencies and government organizations, so it was a natural choice to look to us to provide this opportunity for people to experience a ‘soft launch’ into what they could expect in their chosen educational pathway,” said DaNene Dwyer, program manager.
So far, PCC has held two On-Ramps courses and plans to host an “On-Ramp to Manufacturing” and an “On-Ramp to Healthcare” classes, which are being offered this fall. Future On-Ramps are under development and will be focused on the largest industry sectors that offer economically resilient and essential jobs like Information Technology. In addition, the classes offer the opportunity to serve students identified through community and affordable housing partners, high schools and employers.
“The On-Ramps aim to reduce the opportunity gap in education and employment, so our outreach is focused on women, minorities and those whose financial status has historically precluded them from accessing higher education,” Dwyer added.
The CWD team also looks for opportunities to partner with local government agencies and nonprofit organizations in order to broaden its reach in the community and, ultimately, reach more students. An example is a recent grant from Washington County — made possible through the federal CARES Act — that is creating a pipeline of potential new students in healthcare and manufacturing.
“At the Willow Creek Center, we’re creating a variety of programming that prepares people for success at PCC and then connects them with family-wage, career-track employment,” said Giaritta. “We’re providing a range of career awareness and exploration activities, connecting people with the On-Ramp programs, and collaborating with the PCC recruitment team to ensure a smooth transition into PCC.”
Dwyer and Giaritta said that they would love to offer On-Ramps that lead to every PCC CTE program and are excited to work with faculty and staff across the college to make it happen.
“Our colleagues from across the college are eager to collaborate on projects that have the potential to improve the student experience and lift up the larger community,” said Dwyer. “We work closely with PCC faculty and staff to build programs that support work that’s already being done, rather than duplicating it. This work supports the Yes to Equitable Student Success initiative at PCC, with the ultimate goal of increasing enrollment and enhancing the economic prosperity of the greater Portland community.”