Gov. Kate Brown has awarded Oregon Solutions project status to a local collaborative that seeks to build a career and technical education center in South Douglas County. Project boosters are hoping the center will be operational by September 2018.
The designation will help pave the way for five South County school districts who are joining forces to create a centralized site where students can take additional classes in high-quality CTE programs. The project’s goals include boosting high school graduation rates as well as career options in fields that meet local industry needs.
Wayne Patterson, executive director of the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, predicted the center and expanded CTE programs would have a direct impact on many Douglas County industries, including wood products, manufacturing, construction and many more.
“Our businesses need workforce to grow and are struggling to find workers,” he said. “This type of high school CTE program allows us to ‘grow our own’ future workforce based on our business community’s actual needs.”
During the past year, five South County school district superintendents – from Days Creek, Glendale, Riddle, South Umpqua and Winston-Dillard – have been exploring the prospect of a South County CTE center to expand their existing programs, with assistance from the Douglas Education Service District. In a Dec. 22 letter, Gov. Brown stated that the South County Douglas County Career and Technical Education Collaborative meets objectives required for Oregon Solutions status. The letter also directed Douglas ESD Superintendent Michael Lasher and Jeff Johnson, owner/operator of the Myrtle Creek-based MSK True Value Stores, to help coordinate efforts. Lasher and Johnson will work with others to bring in partners in industry and community-based groups to contribute resources, time and talent.
Lasher said the Oregon Solutions designation is more than an honorary award, as it comes with a significant contribution of state funds and support designed to move the project forward. He added the momentum builds on work already undertaken by school districts, the Partnership, the Ford Family Foundation and other community leaders.
Lasher emphasized that while students from each school district will take new CTE classes at a centralized location, they will retain enrollment in their own schools. But they also will have the opportunity to share technology, instruction and experience with other students in a centralized location.
“One of the advantages is that the cost of running high-quality CTE programs will be shared among the school districts,” Lasher said. “That makes it more likely that the system will continue over the long term.”
South County School District Superintendent Tim Porter said he’s excited about the prospect of offering students more opportunities in high-interest fields.
“This will prepare students for the workplace and provide a living wage right out of high school,” he said. “It should also help our local businesses by providing skilled workers in an area of high need.”
Winston-Dillard School District Superintendent Kevin Miller pointed out that smaller school districts often struggle to provide a sufficient variety of programs to small student populations with diverse interests.
“Much of the educational research indicates that students will find greater success if they have access to programs that align with their personal and future professional interests,” Miller said. “The purpose of the South Douglas County CTE Collaborative is to pool our resources in an effort to increase student engagement in our school programs.”
Patterson said with businesses directly involved in the CTE programs, “we can establish future workforce needs, on-the-job training, internships, summer jobs and job shadowing that can all lead to full-time, good-paying jobs for our graduating high school students.”
Launched with the passage of the state of Oregon’s Sustainability Act in 2001, Oregon Solutions partners with the Governor’s Regional Solutions Centers to assist with priority projects where state agency assistance and funding are available and needed.