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‘Future Ready Oregon’ to leverage community colleges training, support

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In his State of the Union Address, U.S. President Joe Biden called community colleges  “America’s best kept secret.” And as of this week, that “secret” will be part of the solution to developing Oregon’s future workforce and creating more equitable prosperity across the state.

This week, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1545, the “Future Ready Oregon” initiative, which Gov. Kate Brown will soon sign into law. Crafted with input from the Governor’s Racial Justice Council Workforce Workgroup, the package will focus on opportunities for historically underserved communities, including adult learners, dislocated workers, people of color, women, people with low incomes, rural communities, individuals who disproportionately experience age discrimination in employment and disconnected youth.

welding

PCC’s Career Pathways includes stackable credentials in maritime welding.

“As we write our next chapter as a state, ‘Future Ready Oregon’ will help education providers meet Oregon’s workforce – including students – where they are, and advance a more equitable prosperity across our state,” said Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui, who serves on the Racial Justice Council Workforce Workgroup.

The comprehensive $200 million package of investments will provide people the education, training, and resources they need to get into good-paying jobs. This includes increased investments for community college Career Pathways programs, such as the one at PCC that provides short-term, stackable certificates that lead to degrees and jobs, as well as academic credit for prior-learning.

The bill also creates new Workforce Readiness Grants to increase cross-collaborative partnerships with community-based organizations that work with underserved populations to address equity barriers in workforce training programs.

“Future Ready Oregon” would enable Oregon’s community colleges to capitalize on their Career Pathways programs. It enables non-native English speakers, high-school equivalency graduates and students who need extra support in reading, writing and math to integrate their basic studies with workforce training. Program advisors help students identify their career of choice and provide wraparound support as they accumulate stackable credentials.

In 2020, the state declared a need for an additional 300,000 skilled adult workers with postsecondary credentials, to meet the demands of a future filled with increasingly complex work. The pandemic further disrupted the workforce crisis, as well as highlighted pre-existing economic disparities across the state.

Leveraging American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and state general funds, “Future Ready Oregon” will focus on creating more equitable economic mobility by creating career pathways into living wage jobs across Oregon.

“This initiative provides the roadmap for Oregonians, especially BIPOC Oregonians, to get access to family-wage careers in healthcare and beyond,” said Patsy Richards, director of Long-Term CareWorks at RISE Partnership and a member of the governor’s council.

Marin Areolla III, president of Advanced Economic Solutions and co-chair of the council’s workforce workgroup, said, “This historical bill will change our workforce system for the better and create an equitable economy that works for everyone.”

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 »