Higher Education Institutions Work to Build the Team for Tomorrow

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From entry-level to managerial training and support, the area’s higher education institutions’ programs benefit Vancouver and Clark County’s workforce from the top down. Both Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver offer a variety of educational opportunities for individuals looking to gain access to the workforce, enhance an existing skill set or acquire new ones. And whether the approach is to provide hands-on training or a degree track, both are greatly enhancing the talent pool for local and regional employers. At WSUV, the goal is to produce well-prepared graduates regardless of the field of study, says Chancellor Hal Dengerink. With that in mind, the university has taken steps to further its offerings in fields of local interest, making it a vital partner in local economic development efforts. “The community is heavily centered on the semiconductor industry, so we’ve invested heavily in our mechanical and electrical engineering programs, as well as our computer science degrees,” Dengerink says. The university partners with local companies in research, an effort that will be bolstered with the completion of a new building planned for the electrical engineering program that will house a branch of the Washington Technology Center, Dengerink says. At Clark College, workforce development is so important that it has been split into two areas, one focusing on corporate education and training, and another that is designed for entry- to mid-level employees who need to obtain and develop specific skill sets in order to find and keep good positions. “We’ve coined the term ‘career pathways’ and look at adult basic education in the community,” says Danette Randolph, director of workforce education and economic development for the college. “We work to build career pathways and career ladders, getting students into the community college system at the entry point, and then having short certificate and other programs to the next momentum point that will help them along the pathway.” On the corporate side, training takes two tracks: open enrollment courses in a variety of subjects that are largely non-credit, and professional development and small-business training that’s customized to the needs of a specific employer, says Todd Oldham, executive director of corporate and continuing education for the college. “For specific companies, we do a needs analysis and then deliver a program to that facility,” Oldham says. “We do a lot of programs around process improvement and excellence, incumbent-worker training for people already on the job. We’ve trained thousands of people and have succeeded in getting a lot of grants for our programs.” By providing quality training at all levels, the schools are able to help the region’s current employers remain competitive while luring new industry, notes Randolph. “Businesses will come if you give them the workforce that they need,” she says.

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Wed, 02/28/2018 - 21:22