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Pathways to support Wilsonville businesses needs through education discussed at June 15 summit

VIA GOOGLE MAPS - The Clackamas Community College campus in Wilsonville is shown here.Clackamas Community College this week convened Wilsonville-based business leaders, educators and elected officials for a networking and development summit to identify collaborative strategies for supporting the business community.

During the in-person summit on Wednesday, June 15, at CCC's Wilsonville campus, attendees discussed challenges facing local businesses in 2022, including staffing shortages, rising inflation, setting competitive wages, a lack of diversity, transportation issues and more.

Groups then brainstormed ways the college can support businesses through student programs and services. CCC President Tim Cook said this feedback will be used to develop a 10-year facilities plan meeting the local needs of communities the college serves.

"We want to know where businesses are struggling, whether it is a trained workforce or lack of child care or challenges with transportation," Cook said. "And then we want to explore how the college and the city can help overcome those challenges."

Shalee Hodgson, associate dean of technology, applied science and public services at CCC, said that a key takeaway was the importance of opening students' minds to the wide range of industries where their skills or passions may apply.

"One of the key opportunities that came up was exposing students to different kinds of careers and thinking about where they might fit versus a traditional doctor or lawyer," Hodgson said.

Sunny Olsen, director of CCC's Harmony Campus for health education, said certification programs that center around effective and efficient skill-building would benefit local businesses.

"Perhaps a four-year degree isn't the best degree for an entry-level job in manufacturing or engineering, so how can the college with our two-year degrees, our certificates, our micro-training opportunities, support exactly what businesses need?" she said.

Hodgson said that, due to COVID-19 and the growing use of remote collaboration, the college and local businesses have had to rethink how technology can be integrated into daily operations in a way that serves field-specific needs.

"Similar to the college and its educational opportunities, some jobs require hands-on (experience)," Olsen said, adding that they discussed opportunities to share available lab space and equipment. "People are looking at, 'How can we share resources? How can we capitalize on the resources we have to meet the needs we have, but also to maximize efficiency?'"

Beyond helping students develop workplace skills, many participants emphasized the importance of supporting students' mental health and helping them develop life-management skills through counseling and navigation services available on campus.

Olsen added: "We learned a lot about things that the college can't necessarily impact in terms of education, but can be co-advocates for the roadblocks that businesses are running into," including affordable housing shortages limiting the pool of prospective workers.

Going forward, Cook said that further in-person meetings will be held to continue strengthening the relationship between the school and local businesses.

"We hope to have a lot more of these conversations," Cook said. "Sometimes you just need to sit down across the table from somebody to really brainstorm, so that was the goal, to try to get people here."

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