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PCC program offers the ultimate career workout

The Workforce Investment Act program shows there's no point in training for a job that doesn't exist
by: Jaime Valdez, WORK FORCE – Larisa Fedorkova-Felty, career specialist with Portland Community College’s Workforce Investment Acts program, sorts through fliers for training for manufacturing jobs in her office at WorkSource Oregon in Tualatin.

Larisa Fedorkova-Felty doesn't believe in sending people out to look for jobs that don't exist anymore.

Say a man from the former Soviet Union becomes a permanent resident in the United States. In his country, where he was a welder, the man became an expert in stick welding, one of the most popular welding processes in the world.

But here in Oregon, the process may not be as common or as needed as the flux-cored arc approach. With the help of a Workforce Investment Act program, the man could receive welding training, learn American terminology, learn the new techniques and find a job.

Are welding jobs even in demand? Fedorkova-Felty replies in the affirmative.

As a career specialist with Portland Community College's Workforce Investment Acts program, Fedorkova-Felty said the federally funded program is designed to keep up with the job market and the changing skills needed to fill it.

The PCC program operates on a simple belief that there's no purpose for training if there's no jobs.

'We don't want to send people to a position that is ultimately dying,' said Fedorkova-Felty.

Teaming up with WorkSource Portland Metro and operating out of four sites in Washington County, PCC's Workforce Investment programs have a job placement goal of 87 percent.

The program was able to place 100 percent of the people who attended a manufacturing foundations training series last year.

'Our programs are specifically designed to fill a need,' said Fedorkova-Felty. 'There's definitely a niche for programs like ours - helping people see the industries' needs.'

Within the next year, the biotechnology company Genentech will open a facility in Hillsboro, bringing with it the need to fill jobs that require advanced manufacturing skills.

And the desire to introduce non-native English speakers into high-tech company jobs has shown a need to offer entry-level high-tech skills training for English language learners.

PCC's program is taking on both, by offering nine-month and seven-week training respectively. The programs are usually free. Fedorkova-Felty said, however, that people are first asked to exhaust any means of financial aid. And as for all its programs, people must be able to provide the correct documentation during a certification process to prove legal U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

WorkSource Portland Metro-Tualatin office manager Bruce Powers said his office refers people daily to the PCC programs.

Recognizing Washington County as one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Powers predicts that the recent partnerships made with PCC's programs and organizations like Experience Works Inc. will be important in helping people find the best jobs available for their skills.

WorkSource Oregon recently moved its Beaverton office to Tualatin, 7995 S.W. Mohawk St. Since December, when the new office opened, Powers said client numbers have been increasing every month.

From people looking for work to businesses reaching out for in-house recruitment, Powers said the building is already seeing a high use among the new community. The office provides employment and job-matching services for residents in Tigard, Tualatin, Beaverton, Sherwood and parts of Southwest Portland.

Powers acknowledges that many people still see WorkSource Oregon as simply 'the employment office' or sometimes the unemployment office if they are seeking unemployment insurance.

But Powers likes to think of himself and everyone in the Tualatin office as part of the WorkSource team.

'Our ultimate goal is to help people get back to work,' said Fedorkova-Felty. 'But we don't have a magic wand. We can't help every person that comes to us.'

For more information on the partners involved with what Powers termed the WorkSource team, visit www.workforceallianceonline.org.