ONTARIO—With the first year of a pilot welding program successfully completed, local education officials are working on starting a new program in the health-care field and plans for a central career technical education center.

The career technical education program is one five spokes in the Malheur County Poverty to Prosperity program, which is designed to help the county’s economy by helping develop a trained work force to draw additional industry and jobs to the county

Other parts of the Malheur County Wheel of Prosperity include expanding industrial lands, utilizing natural resources, retaining local resources and expanding the agricultural trade sector.

Poverty to Prosperity leaders and staff presented their program during the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Forum Monday. They reminder their listeners that while the program has been started, there is still a long way to go. They urged the community to continue its support to help the initiative succeed.

“It’s a [plan] for youth to lead the county out of poverty,” said Riley Hill, one of the founders and leaders of Poverty to Prosperity. “They can bring Malheur County out of it.”

The goal of the career technical program is to keep youths in the county by giving them a local place to train for local jobs.

The county has made progress in expanding its inventory of industrial land, with seven new industrial zones sites recently approved by the Department of Land Conservation and Development, Hill noted.

Poverty to Prosperity has received grants from the state to get career technical education programs started, including funds to hire CTE coordinator Elaine Taylor, instructors and to purchase equipment.

High school juniors in the first welding class will be taking their second year, starting this fall, at Treasure Valley Community College, while a second first-year welding class will be held at Ontario High School facilities. Most of the seniors in the first class will continue to their training at TVCC to become certified welders.

“It gives the kids hope,” said Dirk DeBoer, a co-founder of Poverty to Prosperity.

But the support from the community is still needed, he said.

“Don’t slack off,” he told the Chamber.

“There are more steps to take,” DeBoer said, adding that he would like to have other communities join in.

Presently, students from Ontario, Nyssa and Vale high schools are involved in the CTE programs. He said the initiative hopes to include students from outlying schools in county in the future.

Mark Redmond, curriculum director of the Malheur Education Service District, said the allied health program will start this fall, with an instructor traveling to each school during the day to teach classes.

The initial year will be offered to sophomores and will focus on allied health occupations, what types of jobs are available and what opportunities they offer students. Redmond said professionals working in those jobs now will be needed to talk to students about they do.

During the following two years of the program, students will be able to come away with certified nursing assistant degrees and basic health certificates, which could lead to other opportunities in the medical field. An instructor for the class is still being sought.

The next program that the CTE committee would like to start is automated systems, which would train students to operate the technology being used by various industries now and in the future.

Larry Meyer is a news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4813 or by emailing larrym@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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