CTE Program Builds Opportunities at Oak Creek

Six female youth were selected to take an 80-hour course from Baker Technical Institute to become certified heavy equipment operators.

By Joy Koenig, MESD Principal
(as originally posted in MESD News)

Baker Technical Institute offered a heavy equipment training last month to students at Three Lakes and Riverside high schools, located in Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility and the Young Women’s Transition Program, respectively.

Multnomah Education Service District provides youth corrections education programs at both schools.

During the training session, six students took an 80-hour course of Heavy Equipment Operators Training and learned how to operate grader, excavator, bulldozer, and loader machines on highly technical CAT simulators.

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Oregon Youth Authority Vocational Education Coordinator Roger Snell attended and supported the students throughout their training.

“The work our students do is phenomenal,” he said. “What a great experience for them. This work is not easy, and they were persistent and focused.”

BTI heavy equipment instructor Dawson Vanderwiele relied on her own experience as a master operator to not only provide the students with equipment operator skills, but to also guide students through essential skills that are key in gaining employment, retaining positions, and advancing in this field. Other practical skills Vanderwiele taught included resume writing, interviewing, and critical thinking.

Vanderwiele, who grew up in a family of heavy equipment operators, has operated them herself for as long as she can remember. She has now turned her time to teaching others the trade.

Currently, Vanderwiele travels the Pacific Northwest as part of the BTI heavy equipment team.

“I love to teach, but it’s extra special when I get a chance to teach other females about the profession,” said Vanderwiele. “Often times, all they need is the exposure to a career they did not know about and given a start on the right path.”

Three years ago, Vanderwiele became the first woman, and the youngest person in the nation, to become a trained master instructor on CAT simulators, according to BTI President Doug Dalton.

Youth at Oak Creek and YWTP who recently completed the BTI heavy equipment program earned an introductory certification level, which is industry-recognized in all 50 states and never expires, according to Dalton.

“Being able to take this training right to their location and provide these students with employable skills that are in demand across the nation is exciting,” said Dalton. “Our team teaches students real career-connected opportunities through hands-on learning, building a foundation of skills, confidence and a passion for a successful career.”

Tracie Hightower, OYA’s state education coordinator, connected Dalton with the programs at Oak Creek and YWTP’s schools.

“This training is a great addition to the skill set we want all youth to have when they leave us,” Joy Koenig, principal of both facility schools, said. “Every chance we get, we look for high-wage skills our students can learn. This is the right work to do, and we are thrilled that BTI is partnering with us.”

Additional training is being provided through a grant from the Oregon Department of Education’s CTE Revitalization Funding, providing students with career and technical training that can lead to high-demand, high-wage jobs after being released.

Through this partnership with ODE, MESD will bring additional heavy equipment training to Three Lakes High School (Oak Creek), Riverside High School (YWTP), Ocean Dunes High School (located at OYA’s Camp Florence Youth Transitional Facility), and the Linn-Benton Juvenile Detention Education Program.

This will provide eight additional opportunities (two for each school) to train students, granting certifications for job-ready skills as well as increasing access to kinesthetic learning opportunities in the classroom with support from the CTE Revitalization Grant for $125,000.

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