ONTARIO — Twenty Malheur County students Friday became first group to complete the welding classes in the pilot career technical education program sponsored by the Poverty to Prosperity Initiative to improve the economy of Malheur County.
An open house to recognize students, the instructor and those behind Poverty to Prosperity and the career technical education program was held in the welding shop at Treasure Valley Community College. The event drew county, city and community leaders.
Instructor Roger Watkins, who came to the program from Ontario High School, said there were five students each from Vale and Nyssa and 10 from Ontario for the first class. He will teach a new group of first-year students starting this fall in space provided by Ontario High School, but as part of the joint career technical education program.
An instructor at TVCC will teach the second year of the welding program, which this fall will include the juniors from this year’s class.
TVCC President Dana Young said most of the seniors in this year’s pilot program are planning to enroll at the college to complete the program.
“I’m so happy to see this,” state Rep. Cliff Bentz said, noting the Poverty to Prosperity program is having an impact statewide.
Dirk DeBoer, one the of driving forces behind Poverty to Prosperity and a technical trade school, said: “The students grabbed the opportunity to make the program successful.”
The program’s purpose includes getting young people trained to find jobs in the local area. The question was, “What can we do for our students so you can hire them?” DeBoer said.
One answer to that question was the welding program. Another answer is a health program, which is planned to start up this fall. An automated system program is planned in the future.
Derek Morales, Ontario, and Tanner Murdock already have jobs related to training they have received at school. Morales, who was not one of the students originally chosen for the program, works at a fabricator shop. He was able to get in the program after other students dropped out.
Murdock said he has already used his skills to build bumpers for his pickup and is working at Agri-Lines where he will be welding once he is certified.
“I was looking for something to do [after high school],” Murdock said, when a friend told him about the program.