Nahlee Suvanvej uses nearby career, academic resources to relaunch life
Nahlee Suvanvej drove to her Northeast Portland education outlet – the Portland Metro Workforce Training Center – to not just find a degree but a new lease on life.
The Humboldt Neighborhood resident had overcome past addiction issues and mental health challenges to move to a frame of mind where she could start looking for a training option. It wasn’t until the 38-year-old entered the “Discovery Options” class at the Portland Metro WTC that everything became clear. Through that class, Suvanvej received intensive one-on-one coaching and guidance that allowed her to build skills, examine interests and create a plan.
“What were once barriers in my life now serve as knowledge and insight to help others who may be experiencing similar sets of challenges,” said Suvanvej, who had earned an associate of transfer degree from Mt. Hood Community College in 2007. “My personal lived experience is valuable knowledge I can draw upon to inform my professional decision-making and understanding of others.”
Neighborhood Career Resource Hub
In 2022, the Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center is being redeveloped into an opportunity center to better serve its community and the city.
- A new two-story facility will be built with classrooms, offices and meeting rooms for both PCC staff and community partners such as the Oregon Department of Human Services.
- PCC’s Community Workforce Development staff work with participants that are receiving public assistance to develop their skill set and position them to be competitive for family wage jobs.
- The new facility will feature affordable housing thanks to a partnership with Home Forward.
“I had a point of contact who knew my situation and created a positive experience,” Suvanvej said. “I think this made a major difference and I felt connected to a larger community throughout the entire journey.”
Tracee Wells is part of PCC’s Community Workforce Development team that oversees Career Launch and connects people to family-wage jobs. Through a partnership with the Department of Human Services, her team offers career coaching and exploration, skills workshops, and ongoing wrap around support.
“This is pretty much the idea behind Career Launch,” Wells said. “Students focus on which academic program or other vocational training track they would like to pursue.”
Wells said after completing Career Launch those with a high school diploma or GED work with their coordinator to help with the financial aid process and navigate the college services. The division’s work echoes the college’s commitment to equitable student success with 83% of the students being served identifying as women, 56% people of color and 23% persons with disabilities.
“Everyday, we serve some of Oregon’s most marginalized and vulnerable students,” Wells said. “Nahlee symbolizes the successes we strive to gain from the workshop, as many of our non-traditional students may have multiple academic and employment barriers and can most greatly benefit from an on-ramp class to better prepare for school.
“We also work closely with our partners like DHS, who provide students with a means to receive an income, food subsidies, healthcare, transportation, and other critical support service assistance while they are in school,” she continued.
Wells said that the next Career Launch cohort will start in March. Those interested can visit the Portland Metro WTC webpage for more information.
As for Suvanvej, after Career Launch she completed the “Peer Support Specialist” and “Basic Life Support” training certification through HealthCareers NW, which is another college workforce development program that is supported by Worksystems. She then moved on and finished the “Foundations in Human Services” Career Pathway Certificate at PCC before transferring to Portland State University’s Child, Youth and Family Studies Baccalaureate Program while maintaining a 4.00 grade-point average.
“All of the supportive staff at PCC Metro provided the tools needed to encourage my career path forward,” said Suvanvej, who is targeting a job in the human services field. “My dream of completing a bachelor’s degree seemed unrealistic due to barriers. Through the information, support and resources of the session, I discovered and planned my academic pathway.”