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LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments
with Information Technology Professionals

Career Pathways Training Team: Dislocated
Workers Program

Community College

Many people lacking postsecondary education or an occupational credential find themselves unemployed or trapped in low-wage, low-skill jobs and slowly sliding into poverty. The changing global economy has resulted in the loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs over the past 20 years. Portland, Oregon has experienced a large number of layoffs in the manufacturing sector including the high-tech, heavy manufacturing, transportation, and garment industries. Layoffs of such large numbers of workers were the impetus for the creation of the Career Pathways Training Team at Portland Community College (PCC).

Project Goals

Low-skilled workers need to be retrained in occupations that lead to family-wage jobs. Most laid-off workers have approximately six months of unemployment insurance, allowing such workers to take at most only one or two terms of classes. Many traditional vocational programs have staggered course offerings in their schedules, or prerequisites that by themselves would take one or two terms of classes. These barriers make traditional academic college programs unattainable to the dislocated worker. In addition, there are few opportunities for limited-English speakers to gain vocational training. Immigrants in particular have been employed in the manufacturing industry in large numbers; they have been severely impacted by the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Career Pathways gives workers an opportunity to thrive in a new career field that has growth potential. Students develop both a career pathway and an educational pathway. They get a chance to see themselves in a career rather than a dead-end job. The program helps students who have never considered college, those with limited English proficiency, low or outdated skills, or minimum-wage job experiences. The program helps students define career goals, get training, and find jobs within industries that pay entry-level living wages and offer growth potential.

Partners and Financing

PCC’s Career Pathways Training Team includes a number of departments:

  • Business and Government – Cascade Campus
  • Business and Industrial Technology – Sylvania Campus
  • Criminal Justice – Cascade Campus
  • Institute for Health Professionals – Central Portland Workforce Training Center
  • Medical Technology and Science – Cascade Campus

A variety of community-based organizations and government agencies partners with PCC to implement Career Pathways, as well as industry and trade associations, labor unions, local employers, Mt. Hood Community College, One Stop Career Centers, and worksystems, inc.

Career Pathways is funded through a grant from worksystems, inc., Portland’s local Workforce Investment Board (WIB). Initial funding allowed for start-up of both program components: English as a Second Language (ESL) Vocational and the Professional Technical credit component. The ongoing cost of the program is supported with this grant along with tuition and fees paid by the students. Students are directed to One Stop Career Centers, the Dislocated Workers Program site, food stamp programs, financial aid offices, and other funding sources to help pay tuition and fees.

Sources include U.S. Department of Labor funds administrated by worksystems, inc.; a U.S. Department of Labor Metals grant; tuition and fees; and the Multnomah-Washington County Regional Investment Board.

Features and Implementation

Principal features of the Career Pathway Training Program include

  • Outreach to community organizations for recruitment;
  • Cohort model that builds relationships and confidence with peers;
  • Job readiness curriculum to prepare students for the world of work;
  • Coursework grouped and scheduled into manageable chunks;
  • Job placement, internship, and job retention services;
  • Strong partnerships with employers and college academic departments; and
  • Ongoing program development and evaluation tied to the labor market.

The ESL Vocational Training began in 1999 with one instruction in health care. Since that time, the program has added trainings in Food Service, Office Skills, Nursing Assistance, and Medical Terminology. In the fall of 2001, the Professional Technical component launched Accounting and Bookkeeping, followed by Criminal Justice and Corrections, Phlebotomy, and CNC Operator in the winter of 2002.

The following Career Pathway training programs have been created, primarily in the health care industry, to serve adult English language learners who have been laid off or are unemployed or underemployed:

ESL Healthcare Program. A four-month intensive program designed to introduce non-native English speakers to entry-level jobs in the health care field. Jobs include medical records keeping, sterile processing, lab assisting, physical therapy assistance, and pharmacy packing.

ESL Food Service Program. A four-month intensive program designed to introduce non-native English speakers to entry-level jobs in food service within institutional settings. It concentrates on leveraging the employer relationships created and maintained for heath care training.

ESL Office Skills Program. A five-month intensive program designed to introduce non-native English speakers to entry-level office work in social services, health care, and government. Students develop updated computer and office skills.

ESL Nursing Assistant Program. A four-month intensive program designed in collaboration with PCC’s Institute of Health Professionals to prepare non-native English speakers for work as nursing assistants and for state certification process.

ESL Medical Terminology Class. A 10-week class that offers intensive medical terminology in an ESL format. This class is offered as a supplement to all the other trainings that offer careers in health care.

The following Professional Technical credit programs have been created to serve people who are unemployed or underemployed:

Accounting and Bookkeeping. Students attend classes five afternoons per week for 11 weeks as a cohort. Classes are scheduled so that prerequisites can be taken the first half of the term and the next classes the second half of the term. A job readiness class is part of this program. The jobs being trained for are entry-level jobs as account clerk. The course provides 14 credits of a 44-credit career pathway.

Criminal Justice and Corrections. Students attend classes four evenings a week in cohort. Classes are scheduled so that students gain the best mix of instruction. A job readiness class is part of this program one afternoon per week. Students may continue for an additional term and receive an internship in a local corrections facility. The program targets entry-level jobs within a corrections facility or community-based release program. It provides 12 credits of a 97-credit program.

Phlebotomy. Students attend classes four evenings a week, along with one afternoon of job readiness class. This program is a mix of credit and noncredit classes. Students spend over 120 clinical hours in a hospital or clinic at the end of the training. Jobs in these labs and clinics are targeted. This program exceeds the national standard for training phlebotomists.

CNC Operator. Students attend classes five days a week. A job readiness class is held each day during this 11-week program. Students work as a cohort, learning basic CNC machine operator skills. The program provides entry-level and midlevel training as a CNC operator. Students hold internships in a local machine shop at the end of instruction and earn 20 credits in the program

Employment Skills Training Certificate (EST). Credentialing is important to students seeking jobs as well as to employers seeking qualified workers. In summer 2002, PCC received approval for a new occupational skills credential from the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. The new state-sanctioned Employment Skills Training Certificate provides, for 12 to 44 credits, a recognized credential in a specific occupation. Employment Skills Training Certificates will be awarded to students completing the Accounting and Bookkeeping, Criminal Justice and Corrections, and CNC Operator Career Pathway trainings.

Successes and Lessons Learned

The ESL Vocational Career Pathway Program has achieved a 90 percent job retention rate since its inception in 1999. Between 75 and 80 percent of the students are placed into a job within 60 days of completing the training.

In its first year, Career Pathways Professional Technical Training built a foundation for success. The program is raising funds to enhance the job development component. Job placement is growing; at the same time, students are deciding to stay in school and continue their education. Prior to participation in the program, many did not envision themselves as successful college students. Both job placement and continuing education are now recognized as successful outcomes of the program.

By providing access, training, and wraparound services such as job readiness and placement, adult workers move from low-wage, dead-end employment to careers with growth potential. Participants gain both a new mindset and a new skill set.

For more information, contact

Mimi Maduro
Director of Workforce Development Programs
Portland Community College
Portland, OR
(503) 788-6209

This article is from the forthcoming book, Building a Workforce System Through Partnering, to be published this month by the League for Innovation in the Community College and Microsoft Corporation.


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