Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

President Mitsui discusses future of workforce at state business summit

Story by James Hill. Photos by Kate Chester.

Mark Mitsui speaking

Mitsui talks to the summit attendees.

Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui took center stage with a lineup of top business and political leaders.

On Monday, Dec. 6, Mitsui joined the “Pathways to Opportunity: Workforce Education in Oregon” panel discussion at the 19th Annual Oregon Leadership Summit, which unveiled the Oregon Business Plan. This year’s summit, attended by Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, was held in-person at the Oregon Convention Center. It was a chance to bring together elected, business and community leaders to present a comprehensive policy strategy and recommendations for the state.

In Mitsui’s “Pathways” discussion on stage, he was joined by fellow panelists Jaime Arredondo (executive director, CAPACES Leadership Institute), Andrew Nelson (Randall C. Papé Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Oregon) and Patsy Richards (director, Long-Term CareWorks, RISE Partnership). He talked about his personal journey in education as well as initiatives PCC is undertaking to build equitable student success and supporting the needs of industry.

Mark Mitsui discusses education with the panelists at the 19th Annual Oregon Leadership Summit of the Oregon Business Plan.

Mark Mitsui discusses training pathways with the panelists at the 19th Annual Oregon Leadership Summit of the Oregon Business Plan.

“Everybody deserves a shot,” Mitsui said of education. “It doesn’t matter what zip code you are born in — we serve students of color who are the first in their family to go to college, veterans that served in Afghanistan, the dislocated worker wondering if they have a future, the victim of domestic violence pursuing a new life … that’s the power of higher education and it has been a privilege to have been part of it.”

Mitsui touched on PCC’s guided pathways and how they serve as links for students to transfer to a four-year university or transition into the workforce seamlessly and with plenty of support. It’s the new reality of today’s student body, he said, as 60% of the nation’s community college students report they are food insecure. At PCC, nearly 20% have stated they have faced houselessness at one time or another.

In addition, the PCC-led Pathways to Opportunity initiative, along with the college’s Future Connect and Career Pathways programs, have been on the forefront of connecting students with benefits and navigating resources for better outcomes. This all ties nicely into the 2021 Oregon Business Plan, which offers a strategy and specific proposals for educating and building a prosperous future for the state.

“This proposal presents a once in a generation opportunity,” said Ben Cannon, executive director of Higher Education Coordinating Commission. “It will transform the way we will develop the workforce.”