CGCC grant will target minority tech students

Through a grant From Intel Foundation, Columbia Gorge Community College will be able to increase its effort to provide opportunities and access to higher education and employment for under represented minorities and women.

The grant will be used to increase enrollment from these groups in the Electronic Engineering Technology (EET) Associates of Applied Science degree program.

Nineteen percent of the students in the EET program are women and only 2 percent are Hispanic. Afro-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Native Alaskan students account for 2 percent of the EET program students.

Columbia Gorge Community College will build on its extensive array of student support services, including program-specific orientation sessions, tutoring, and job placement. The College will leverage its network of local and regional partnerships, such as Intel and the Bonneville Power Administration, to aid in recruiting, retaining, mentoring, and placing its EET students. These partnerships include outreach to high schools and community organizations, internship arrangements with local industry, and academic reciprocity with Oregon colleges and universities.

The primary goals of the project are to increase numbers of well-educated and skilled employees in electrical engineering technology; improve educational opportunities for groups under represented in the EET program; increase the retention of students to degree completion; strengthen the partnerships between CGCC and local engineering and technology employers in industry and government; increase the number of students entering the EET program directly from high school; and, increase the number of graduates continuing on to four-year programs.

The college was also recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation, Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Scholarship (CSEMS) Program. The NSF funding will be for scholarships targeted to students who demonstrate financial need and academic promise, with special efforts to recruit and retain students who are under represented in technology disciplines, including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women. The Engineering the Future scholarship program would also place special emphasis on recruiting students who have recently finished high school. Each scholarship will be worth $3,000 per year and renewable for one year.

This program aims to increase the numbers of under represented minorities and women who graduate from CGCC with an EET degree and go on to four-year programs or into the workforce. Toward this end, the scholarships will be publicized through meetings at area high schools, community organizations, and one-stop career centers, where eligible people will be encouraged to apply. CGCC is also committed to recruiting students directly from high school. The scholarships will give motivated high school graduates a chance to begin their college careers, rather than interrupting their education due to lack of funds.

Once on campus, CSEMS scholars will benefit from the existing array of support services designed to help students achieve academic success. These include student success seminars, communication skills workshops, academic advising, internships, job placement workshops, and career counseling. Each CSEMS scholar will also benefit from CSEMS-specific services and activities, such as monthly workshops and troubleshooting sessions, an ongoing relationship with an industry mentor, increased access to tutoring, exposure to area colleges and high-tech firms, and job placement assistance. These activities will help build peer relationships among CSEMS scholars that will provide further structure and support.

Even as the high-tech boom of the 1990s fades, the Oregon Employment Department still anticipates a high demand for technology-trained students in the software and manufacturing industries. For example, computer engineers and computer support specialists represent two of the top five growth occupations over the next eight years in the Portland metro area. Statewide over the next eight years, Oregon anticipates over 20 percent growth in positions available for students trained in engineering and microelectronics technology. While the jobs are there, financial aid statistics show that students who want to study these disciplines are more financially needy than the general student population, with nearly 40 percent being fully self-supporting. CSEMS scholarships would not only increase the diversity of graduates seeking employment or higher education in the targeted disciplines, they would help those students graduate to jobs or four-year programs more quickly.

For more information contact CGCC at 541-298-3112.

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