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Oregon gives out $35M grants to programs training workers for high-demand industries

A panel of 6 people sit at a long table
Meerah Powell
As one of several efforts to improve workforce training in the tech sector, state and national leaders gathered for a discussion in April 2023 at Portland Community College's Willow Creek campus. From left to right: Oregon Rep. Janelle Bynum, Oregon U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek and Oregon Sen. Janeen Sollman.

Oregon is sending a total of $35 million in grant funding to 30 projects across the state designed to support workforce training in high-demand industries.

It’s the largest round of funding awarded so far under the Future Ready Oregon planapproved by state lawmakers in 2022. The legislation overall steers $200 million from the state’s general fund and federal pandemic relief aid to education and training for Oregonians.

The plan focuses on historically underserved communities, such as people of color, veterans and people living in rural areas. Future Ready Oregon’s director, Jennifer Purcell, says the program targets workforce training in three industries key to the state’s economy: health care, manufacturing and technology.

To be considered for a Workforce Ready grant from the program, Purcell said projects had to originate from community-based organizations, such as a community college.

“We really prioritized equity and innovation and partnerships,” she said. “Projects that really consider the whole person, the individual’s needs, and meeting people where they’re at, connecting them to the resources that they need to be successful, both in education and employment.”

Purcell says the chosen projects demonstrated partnerships among organizations that not only provide job training, but are also able to help people dealing with things like housing or food insecurity.

The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission is administering the package of investments included in the Future Ready Oregon legislation. The commission reported that more than 150 projects applied for the grant funding.

Projects at seven community colleges were among those to receive funding in this round of grants. For example, Mt. Hood Community College in east Multnomah County is creating a mobile training lab for advanced manufacturing careers with a focus on the semiconductor industry.

Other recipients include organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and tribal communities. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is on the list for its project partnering with industry and Pendleton-based Blue Mountain Community College to provide training and credentialing in unmanned aircraft systems.

Purcell says another round of grant funding is expected early next year.

Kyra Buckley