Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
Western Pathways Conference Welcome
Thursday, May 9, 2019

Good morning. I am so pleased to join you at this year’s Western Pathways Conference. For those of you visiting Oregon, welcome. I hope you have some time to enjoy what our region has to offer.

This conference is an important step in aligning our education systems with the needs of our employers. And this morning’s session is focused on the critical role that states play in this work.

Employers in Oregon and across the country share a common challenge in hiring a skilled, diverse workforce. Last year, I launched the Future Ready Oregon initiative. It is focused on helping every Oregonian obtain the skills they need for a good-paying job.

Our economy is booming, but not every Oregon family feels this success, particularly in rural parts of the state. The gap between the skills Oregonians have and what growing businesses need is holding Oregonians – and our economy – back.

My Future Ready initiative focuses on two parallel efforts:

1. Ensuring every single student graduates from high school with a plan for their future and the tools to compete in a global economy. 

2. Providing opportunities for adult Oregonians to “skill up” and land a better job, one that enables them to purchase a home, save for retirement, and send their kid to college.
    Businesses have to be a key player in this work. And our efforts must be focused on those who face barriers to economic prosperity, including our underrepresented
    communities. In Oregon, that means our rural communities, our communities of color, and our tribes.

This morning, I am going to highlight three things we are doing in Oregon to achieve this vision:

● Expanding access to hands-on learning

● Expanding apprenticeships in high-demand industries, and

● Ensuring higher education investments are targeted to help students complete degrees.

First, we are working to rebuild, reinvest, and reform our education system. This begins with my proposal for $2 billion in targeted investment across a seamless system of education, from early childhood education through career. 

A key component includes expanding career and technical education or CTE, and other career-connected learning opportunities in our schools, classrooms, and communities. 

High school students who take career technical education courses in the final two years of high school are more likely to graduate than those who don’t participate in CTE programs.

And the impact is especially significant for diverse students. For example, Native American students had an average graduation rate of sixty-five percent in the last school year, but Native American students who took two or more CTE classes graduated at a rate of eighty-one percent.

We will ensure every student in every high school in the state has access to CTE courses by investing $300 million in CTE and STEAM education in high school.

To be truly transformational, we need K-12 CTE to more strongly align with pathways at community colleges and public universities. And it needs to be tied to regional and statewide economic goals.

A good model is Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, which partners with K-12, local businesses, and government on developing pathways for students. For example, the Data Center Technician certificate program was developed with local employers, including Amazon, and K-12 schools.

This was undertaken in partnership with local counties and their port commissions. Students take prep programs in high school, enter the program at Blue Mountain Community College after graduation, and can earn $15 to $25 an hour right after school.

A second area of focus is around Oregon’s registered apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship programs are essential tools in closing the state’s skills gap in many technical occupations.

These high-paying jobs require more than a high school education, but less than a four-year degree and will continue to make up the largest job segment of Oregon’s economy for years to come. Registered apprenticeships have been concentrated in the construction industry, but they can be extremely valuable to employers in other industries.

I call these “Next-Gen Apprenticeships” — training programs in technical fields like IT, health care, advanced wood manufacturing, and high-tech manufacturing.

For example, the Apprenti program in Lane and Deschutes County is a partnership with the Technology Association of Oregon. There are opportunities at multiple employers to train for high-paying jobs in areas like network security, software development, and IT support.

Also, our first registered apprenticeship program in health care is under way in Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties.  The first cohort of medical assistants will take their certification exams on June 1. 

I have set a goal for expanding NextGen Apprenticeships by 2020, and I have directed our state agencies to launch new registered apprenticeships, in addition to the programs underway in advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology.

Lastly, I want to talk about how we are targeting state resources in higher education to support our values and priorities for student success, equity, and a thriving economy.

Several years ago, Oregon overhauled a decades-old formula for distributing state funding to public universities. Instead of funding based on enrollment, the new formula awards about half of the funding based on degree completion for Oregon students.

It is outcomes-based. It creates incentives and support for institutions to focus their resources on student success.

The formula provides additional funding for degree completion for underrepresented students, and in fields that are in particular demand by the Oregon economy.

Since the adoption of the new formula in 2014, the number of degrees awarded by Oregon public universities to in-state students has increased every single year. And, the number of Oregonians of color completing degrees at Oregon public institutions has more than doubled in the last decade.

Although the state plays a fundamental role in this work, we cannot do it without our partners — particularly in education, business, and labor. We must all continue to work collaboratively to elevate opportunities for students and workers and build our economy.

Thank you for having me here this morning, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference.