Malheur County


Treasure Valley Community College Center for Business, Workforce and Community Learning

by Greg Alexander, Pendleton

Most people associate colleges with youthful students, pursuing their dreams in the shape of a two- or four-year degree. That’s true for Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario — but TVCC also serves a broader community and students seeking something other than an advanced degree.

TVCC’s Center for Business, Workforce and Community Learning (CBWCL) partners with state agencies and organizations like the American Heart Association to host classes in first aid and CPR, provide notary workshops, EMT certification, and even real estate broker training. Springtime brings a flurry of wildland fire training and recertification before fire season begins. CBWCL’s programs reach a spectrum of age groups and address specific community and industry needs. “We're very different from the academic side,” says Center Director Andrea Testi.

The Center also provides hands-on training in workplace practices and skills, often directly from established businesses and tradesmen. Testi cites the electrical and plumbing apprenticeship programs that help develop and license the next generation of journeymen. “It really is up to the local workforce whether these thrive.”

Teaching new workplace skills has become increasingly important, says David Koehler, TVCC’s Dean of Career & Technical Education. “Industries are starving for qualified workers. It’s the bottleneck for economic growth. They will train people, but they much prefer to hire those with skills. We have to stay ahead of that curve so the region continues to grow at a healthy rate.”

But like other departments at the college, CBWCL is being asked to do more with less — in fact, much less. “In the last round of cuts two years ago, our budget was sliced in half,” Testi reports. Two full-time positions were lost and most of her staff now work under hourly contracts. “We’re just not doing everything we used to do.”

Koehler echoes her concern. “Staff is wearing so many hats now, and we just get spread thinner and thinner. What happens to the quality of the programs we are putting out there? You essentially reach a tipping point.”

If funding cuts lead to a loss of flexibility in skills training, he explains, it reduces TVCC’s ability to produce the workforce needed to drive economic growth. “You have that ripple effect, growth becomes stagnant. Economic development agencies have a tougher time recruiting new businesses. Gross domestic product goes down for the region. It would have a drastic and profound effect on our economy.” relationships, we can show people how to live a different life.”

Caitlin Baggott