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STEP Project - Portland Community College
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  Kate Kinder, Director Career Pathways and Skills Training
  Portland Community College, OR




Portland Community College (PCC) is creating pathways for SNAP (food stamp) recipients to build skills, earn industry-driven credentials, and move into careers offering economic mobility in our region’s top sectors. The STEP project utilizes Oregon’s successful Career Pathways framework to implement a SNAP Employment and Training (SNAP 50/50) grant that is building partnerships with human service agencies, workforce development providers, community based organizations, employers, and community colleges across the state of Oregon. STEP has also increased the college’s capacity to provide data-driven services that increase student success, college completions, and career opportunities offering economic mobility for low income Oregonians.

As the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, PCC serves nearly 75,000 full and part-time students. The college fills a unique role, as a provider of high quality education that creates opportunities for our students and contributes to the vibrancy of Portland's economic community. Since 1999, PCC’s Career Pathways Initiative has been a proven, innovative student success and workforce development strategy. The model offers individuals short-term, stackable certificates that prepare them for employment in high-growth, high-demand industry sectors while also providing a stepping stone to an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and beyond. PCC’s Career Pathways responds to industry needs, and prepares students for middle skill jobs to help close the skills gap. They also integrate career coaching and student support, with multiple entry- and exit- points into college offering a springboard into the workforce with clear paths for career and education advancement over time. Career pathways increase opportunities for economic mobility, and can be a critical strategy for getting families out of poverty while also helping to close the skills gaps facing many employers.

Through STEP, PCC has been able to expand access to Career Pathways for SNAP recipients in three of our top sectors—healthcare, construction, and manufacturing. SNAP 50/50 is a reimbursement, third-party match program where colleges are reimbursed for 50% of their expenses to expand, enhance, or create new services for SNAP recipients. The college must provide the other 50% in match, from non-federal sources of funding. The grant has offered a sizable return on investment and increased local partnerships. With this, PCC has been able to expand the wrap-around support offered to students to increase college completion, and strengthen industry engagement to improve program quality and student employment outcomes. Three pathways specifically, the Maritime Welding, Healthcare Careers, and HVAC Career Pathways have seen increased diversity of students, deepened employer engagement, and promising completion and job placement rates with the implementation of STEP at PCC.

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