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Only seven years after its founding, a Baker City-based technical college will start holding regular classes in Prineville next month.
Baker Technical Institute planting its flag in Prineville, starting with truck-driving courses on April 19, will train highly skilled workers for Central Oregon businesses that desperately need them, said college President Doug Dalton.
And, he said, Crook County’s blue-collar culture is a perfect fit for the school, which he referred to as BTI.
“The culture of the city of Prineville really fit well with the BTI culture,” Dalton told The Bulletin. “It’s really rooted in the tradition of work, a job well done, the old-school work ethic.”
Baker Technical Institute was founded in 2014, and officially licensed by the state as a higher-education institution in February , according to the school’s website. It isn’t a public university that receives taxpayer funding, Dalton said.
The school’s specialty is training students for careers like trucking, construction equipment operation, welding and more.
Workers in those careers are badly needed, Dalton said.
“The skilled workforce is at an all-time low, as far as inventory goes,” he said. “There’s been a lack of training for so many decades.”
More than 80% of construction contractors surveyed nationwide in 2019 said they had difficulty filling positions, according to the Virginia-based Associated General Contractors of America trade association.
Furthermore, a 2019 study commissioned by the American Trucking Associations determined that the trucking industry will need to hire about 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade to meet demand.
Ron Cholin, owner of Prineville-based trucking company Stinger Transport, hopes that Baker Technical Institute’s training will help fill staffing needs for his and other companies.
“Anytime we can get more drivers coming into the industry, they’re more than welcome,” he said.
Don’t expect Baker Technical Institute to construct a massive college campus in Prineville any time soon, however. Although the college has a small campus in Baker City, the Prineville branch’s staff will mostly teach in portable classrooms, on land donated by local businesses or the city, Dalton said.
The purpose of this nontraditional setup is to easily bring students to sites, like construction zones, for training, Dalton said. The college also occasionally travels to other parts of the Pacific Northwest for courses, he said.
“We don’t need to put several million (dollars) into a facility,” Dalton said. “We try and operate very nimbly.”
Baker Technical Institute has talked with Central Oregon Community College about using classroom spaces in Prineville now and then, Dalton said. And if the technical college’s Prineville branch expands quickly into other fields that are more classroom-centric, like computer science or health care, a permanent space might be necessary in the future, he said.
Prineville Mayor Jason Beebe said Baker Technical Institute’s expansion into his city was a win for both local companies and residents looking for a solid job.
“The local employers are only as strong as the workforce that can serve them in the community,” he said. “I know there’s a pretty big need right now for truck driving in Crook County.”