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Building a Workforce

Trades Center seen as anti-poverty solution

1/26/2016, 3:52 p.m.
Workforce needs in the manufacturing sector and the opportunity to be lifted out of poverty with family-wage jobs was front ...
State Rep. Lew Frederick of northeast Portland promotes education in the trades and breaking a cycle of poverty in the African American community during a discussion with a group of industry leaders at Portland Community College’s Swan Island Trades Center.

Workforce needs in the manufacturing sector and the opportunity to be lifted out of poverty with family-wage jobs was front and center during a roundtable discussion at Portland Community College’s Swan Island Trades Center.

The industry roundtable last week at the north Portland campus featured Sylvia Kelley, PCC interim college president, State Rep. Lew Frederick, and the chief operating officers from several area employers, including Curtis Robinhold of the Port of Portland, Jack Isselmann of the Greenbrier Companies, and Roger Hinshaw of Bank of America.

“We would like to hear about the type of training your businesses need,” Kelley said.

Robinhold discussed how the Port of Portland is preparing for the future through growth. He said Portland’s working harbor has more than 60,000 jobs, 27,000 of which are with the Port, and pay 10-15 percent better than jobs around the metro area.

“It’s a really complex environment,” he said. “There are a lot of jobs connected one way or another and are not necessarily all in the harbor. The scale of the environment is often lost on a lot of people.”

Rep. Frederick said PCC’s trades program and the family-wage jobs in the area help to reduce poverty rates.

Growing up, Frederick said he remembered folks talking about how young African-American men often would be discouraged to apply for manufacturing work in the area, resulting in a cycle of poverty. Building the trades center and its programs are key in combating this issue, he said.

“The value of the trades center is clear,” Frederick said. “You have to have people who understand how to do these jobs right here; you can’t outsource them. We want to make sure everyone can be part of getting these jobs.”

Hinshaw explored how the finance sector supports regional manufacturing through sustainable workforce development training and education, as well as providing access to capital for businesses. He said that Portland has the 17th largest manufacturing sector among the top largest 100 metro markets in the country.

“I’m a big champion of the manufacturing industry,” Hinshaw said. “It’s an under-recognized sector in the state and is a big deal for me. Twenty six percent of the state’s GDP is from manufacturing. Our partnership with PCC has been a natural path for us. It’s great to see all of the work PCC has done here.”