ONTARIO — Funds are being sought to match money from the state of Oregon to build a career technical education building for Malheur County students.

The $2.8 million in state funding comes via capital construction funds provided to Treasure Valley Community College. Steve Phillips, superintendent of the Malheur Education Service District, has confirmed that the ESD board and the Nyssa School Board have voted to commit funds to the project.

A decision is still pending from the Ontario and Vale school districts, he said.

“This money was always designated for a CTE building,” Abby Lee, TVCC public information officer, said in an email to the Argus. “This was the college’s second priority after the Science Center, and the funds were approved in 2013.”

The college has been talking with the Poverty to Prosperity group for the past two years about a partnership opportunity.

Poverty to Prosperity is the organization behind the effort to establish a career technical education program in Malheur County, to help area high school students obtain skills to develop a local work force that will draw business and industry to the county.

Career technical education is just one spoke of the Poverty to Prosperity program to boost Malheur County’s economy. The four parts are expanding industrial lands, local business retention, utilizing natural resources and expanding the agricultural trade sector.

Poverty to Prosperity has worked with TVCC, the ESD and the Ontario, Nyssa and Vale school districts to establish welding and medical arts programs for high school juniors and seniors. An automated systems program will start this fall.

“For TVCC’s part, we are excited about the possibility of having P2P partner with the college to raise matching funds for the $2.8 million,” Lee said.

“The college could provide our portion of the matching funds was well as land we own near the armory, if the group and the community could raise the remaining funds.”

There has been no formal decision by the board, Lee said, but the career technical education building has been part of an ongoing conversation about possibilities for the college and the community to expand those programs. Any final plans would be subject to board approval.

“We are excited about the momentum these partnership opportunities have gained and look forward to working with the local school districts, community groups and private grant funders to finally see the Treasure Valley Tech/CTE building go from a concept to a reality,” Lee said.

On another front, Poverty to Prosperity has additional opportunities to go after funding for its career technical education program, plus other programs, Phillips said.

During its recent session, the Oregon Legislature approved $34 million for career technical education and science, technology, engineering and math programs, Phillips said. Of that amount, $9 million will be for career technical education revitalization, from which the local program will be seeking $500,000 this fall to continue and expand its classes.

The $34 million includes $8.75 million in career pathways funding that provides possibilities for local schools.

The program is targeted at underserved minority students, students experiencing poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities, Phillips said.

Students must earn three credits in a career technical education program of study, in a pathway leading to a high wage, high demand occupation — occupations paying more than median wage statewide and having higher than median number of openings, according to information Phillips provided.

There are currently four programs at Vale High School that would qualify for the career pathways, Phillips said: automotive, construction, business and ag. For Ontario and Nyssa, it is business and ag, he said.

The Poverty and Prosperity programs will be brought along to have enough courses to fulfill those state financial requirements, Phillips said.

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