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First-in-state pilot program strengthens rural workforce development

January 14, 2017


Media Contact:  Sandy Mitchell, Baker Technical Institute,, 541-524-2651

Career training and job placement at the center of partnership between Baker Technical Institute, Department of Human Services and local business


In an effort to remove barriers that prevent Eastern Oregonians from developing the skills they need to pursue or grow a career, earn higher wages and provide for their families, Baker Technical Institute (BTI) in partnership with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and local businesses have collaborated to create a program that builds and strengthens the rural workforce.

Using TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) reinvestment dollars, the coalition of private and public stakeholders work to promote self-sufficiency and economically viable communities. Programs are being offered to provide specific job skills training while addressing the workforce needs of local businesses.

The partnership is focused on providing opportunities to participate in career and technical courses along with skills training in areas that are critical to career success like customer service, professionalism, interviewing skills, resume writing, accountability and team work. The goal is to develop technical career skills and incorporate soft skill components so learners will be more prepared to retain jobs. Following completion of the training program, students are offered an interview with a local business for which their skills are a match.

“Education is the key to ensuring that Eastern Oregon remains a thriving region, now and in the future,” said Tammy Pierce, program coordinator of Baker Technical Institute. “By implementing collaborative programs that address the workforce training needs of rural businesses with innovative solutions that address the social and economic challenges of poverty, we not only create economic stability but a sustainable future for rural Oregon.”

As an example, since early 2016 BTI has offered three, four-week welding courses that prepares students for an immediate career with Baker City’s Behlen Manufacturing. The company, in turn, provides the materials for the course. DHS identifies clients to participate in the class and uses TANF dollars to finance their skills education, while also addressing social barriers to education like food, housing and transportation. In addition to instructing welding skills in a replica of the Behlen Manufacturing site, BTI is teaching learners about the importance of safety, drug and alcohol free workplace, punctuality and job site visits.


“We understand the critical need for adult learners to have access to job skills training close to home,” said Rhonda Culley, Self-Sufficiency Program Manager. “We were interested in the partnership because of BTI’s innovative and accessible training programs that take weeks, rather than months, to complete, and because of BTI’s existing relationship with employers.”