PMWTC groundbreaking shows that opportunity is knocking for NE Portland
Story by James Hill. Photos by James Hill & Wendy Wright.
Amid the grinding backhoes, billowing dust, mountainous rock piles and near freezing temperatures, opportunity emerged during an event that was groundbreaking.
Portland Community College leaders, college partners and local leaders converged at the Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center (PMWTC) in Northeast Portland to officially break ground on PCC’s 50,000-square-foot facility, which will feature extensive sustainability aspects as it aims for LEED Gold certification.
The PMWTC redevelopment, slated to open in June 2023 and funded by the 2017 PCC bond measure, will be the college’s newest opportunity center and serve as a “bridge” between great careers and services and with the people that need them. The center will be a one-stop resource for community members seeking assistance from PCC, Oregon Department of Human Services and the Native American Youth & Family Center.
Located on the 5600 block of N.E. 42nd Avenue, PMWTC’s redevelopment will allow PCC to partner with Home Forward to offer affordable housing on site. The college will maintain ownership of the land while Home Forward will develop, build and operate a housing project that will provide 84 affordable apartments.
It’s all part of PCC’s ethos in serving the region’s under-represented populations.
“Portland has a lot of bridges and we have come to think of PCC as one of those bridges,” said PCC President Mark Mitsui. “The bridge to opportunity, a better future and a better life through education and training. On one side of the bridge we have talented, capable and hardworking folks who just need a break – an educational opportunity. On the other side we have great jobs and great careers with living wages. PCC is in the middle. We are the bridge and pathway for many generations of folks to go from one end of the bridge to the other.”
The future opportunity center will focus on reversing racial and economic disparities by connecting people to education and career-track employment. Community members can participate in career exploration, coaching and skills development and get wrap-around support systems to help them reach their goals.
According to Temple University’s Hope Center, 60% of people who attend PCC have experienced housing and food insecurity in the past six months with 20% stating they’ve been homeless. Childcare, transportation and health insurance are common barriers for many students and access to this opportunity center is vital.
“It’s really hard to focus on school when you don’t know when or what you are going to eat or where you are going to sleep,” Mitsui added. “Our students are one sick kid and one flat tire away from dropping out. The opportunity center is intended to reduce those barriers and bring together public and private partners in a new way. We’re building on the fantastic and amazing work of the professionals at this workforce training center.”
In light of the community’s struggle with the economic effects of the pandemic where inequalities that existed prior to it have been exacerbated, the future PMWTC will help close opportunity gaps. The new facility replaces two outdated buildings from the 1950s and 1980s, giving community members a wide range of services and programs that will conveniently be under one roof. The project combines classrooms, meeting rooms, open workspace as well as a community room and common areas – all housed in a cutting-edge mass timber and mass plywood community-based facility.
Portland Metro WTC, which first opened its doors 25 years ago, works with community members who are receiving public assistance to gain skills needed for employment. The center’s employment and training programs help users develop and match their skills with family wage jobs.
“There is one thing we all need as we pursue individual career paths and that is meaningful support,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “This is where Portland Community College steps in with its workforce training center. It’s about providing people with the support they need to be successful in whatever career path they choose. This new facility will help PCC to continue its good work in helping Portlanders develop career skills through both training and support. This program has been incredibly innovative and has been vital in creating a more equitable and accessible workforce in Portland.”