Dr. Joanne Truesdell
President of Clackamas Community College
Oregon Business: There is a lack of qualified applicants for jobs in skilled trades. What are you doing to address this problem?
JT: We are part of WorkSource Oregon and WorkSource Clackamas — skills training in the workforce area that brings people in and provides them with the courses they need to skill up to meet qualifications. We did five sector strategy round tables with businesses to determine what their needs are two to five years out. And we modify our curriculum to meet those needs. As an example: There are changes that have occurred in manufacturing since the Great Recession around the equipment necessary for our manufacturers to remain competitive given their goals of onshoring instead of offshoring. We needed to be able to get that equipment and create that environment where students can practice and learn on the equipment manufacturers are using.
OB: What employment trends have affected how you teach programs in technical subjects?
JT: The level of sophistication of the equipment means a higher level of sophistication of skills of the employee. When we have a higher level of sophistication of equipment, often that equipment costs much more. So for example, in manufacturing, it might be that a company has to purchase five pieces of equipment that are a quarter of a million dollars apiece. They can’t afford to train the workforce at a basic level of skill, because if that piece goes down, their entire production goes down. That is where we have to come in and be good partners with them to make sure we have that kind of equipment.
OB: Does the business sector have much influence on the types of programs you provide?
JT: We are always paying attention to what is happening with universities and to ensure we have good dual enrollment or good pathways into both our public and private universities. But not every single job in Oregon is going to require a four-year degree. We are the provider for one-year certifications and two-year degrees and industry certifications. To make that effective, we must work with business and industry to ensure that we are being relevant.
OB: Did you establish any new programs or get rid of any to stay relevant in the labor market?
JT: We began a digital-media communications program, which draws from art, computer science, film studies, broadcasting and recording, and brings those together to participate more in the new-media area. We are also creating a program in industrial technology from a renewable energy and resource perspective.