The Siuslaw news. (Florence, Lane County, Or.) 1960-current, January 10, 2018, WEDNESDAY EDITION, Page 10A, Image 10

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    10 A
from 9A
combined show up that
evening. They had gone here,
or their child or a cousin. An
employee. Everybody has some
sort of connection. Most of the
community has some tie with
Currently, LCC’s enrollment
population has an average age
of 31. This ranges from stu-
dents who are looking for a
career path to adults who never
finished their GEDs.
“We have students who come
out of high school, but we also
have students who are coming
to retool or find another career
or upgrade their skill set,”
Pierson said.
When students graduate
from LCC, there are jobs wait-
ing for them in the Siuslaw
region. A quick view of listings
on Oregon’s employment
department website shows a
whole host of them. CNA.
Respiratory therapist. Diesel
mechanic. Production worker.
The lumber industry isn’t
dead. In fact, it needs more
employees. One logging indus-
try member, who preferred to
remain anonymous, said, “It’s
not just logging. Manual labor
jobs are almost impossible to
fill in industries that require
hard physical work.”
But these jobs need a certain
amount of skilled training, and
the employers often come to
Pierson for help.
“I have had conversations
with employers not able to find
workforce,” Pierson said.
“Unfortunately, those needs are
usually immediate. It’s like,
‘Please, do something!’”
The problem is, many times
he can’t “do something.” Like
Grzeskowiak, Pierson has a
problem with funding.
“A lot of it is the tax meas-
ure. In basic tax economics,
people talk about a three-
legged stool: Property tax,
income tax and sales tax. Well,
we’ve got two out of three, and
one is severely hampered after
Measure 5. We’re running on
one and a half legs. I’ve been in
Oregon much longer than I’ve
been anywhere else. I’m not a
big fan of sales tax either, I like
not paying sales tax. But hon-
estly, at some point, we have to
raise some tax. Or do some-
thing to repair the property tax
the way it was gutted.”
Pierson does what he can
with the funding he has. LCC
Florence is an extension center.
Unlike a satellite campus,
which can provide some com-
plement of full degree pro-
grams, extension centers are
more limited in their offerings.
But that doesn’t mean that they
can’t get a student what they
“A student can come here
and graduate, but it’s going to
be some onsite classes, a few
online classes, probably a cou-
ple of video classes,” Pierson
said. “It does open it up. I think
of it as another tool in the tool
belt. When a student decides to
come here, we’ll work with that
student to tailor our offerings,
literally, almost to the student. I
do wish we had the community
size to support a full-on satellite
campus, as that would be won-
But Pierson, along with
Mapleton and Siuslaw school
districts, are looking to expand
the educational options in the
region. And in the process, cre-
ate the symbiotic relationship
between schools and businesses
that existed before.
In 2016, Measure 98 was
passed, requiring the Oregon
Legislature to fund dropout
prevention and career and col-
lege readiness programs in
Grzeskowiak is using this as a
jumping off point to rebuild the
technical career courses in the
high school and, in the process,
rebuilding industry in the
Siuslaw region.
One of the first obstacles that
Grzeskowiak is facing is a
severe teacher shortage that is
hitting America.
An August article in the
Washington Post explained the
problem: “Teacher shortages
are nothing new … but the
problem has grown more acute
in recent years as the profession
has been hit with low morale
over low pay, unfair evaluation
methods, assaults on due-
process rights, high-stakes test-
ing requirements, insufficient
resources and other issues.”
Grzeskowiak has to poach
teachers from different trades.
“When we talk about filling
a position next year, like wood-
shop, we’ll probably be recruit-
ing someone who is currently
working in the industry,” he
said. “Somebody that is a gen-
eral contractor who is looking
to make a change into educa-
tion. We would be sponsoring
them to get a professional/tech-
nical teaching license.”
Once Grzeskowiak is able to
find these instructors and get
them trained, the work of build-
ing a Siuslaw workforce can
“We have contractors in
town who are looking for kids
who have some skills to begin
with. They’re willing to teach
the rest of those skills on the
job site. They want to be able to
turn those kids into contractors
themselves and then be able to
have the ability to subcontract
out parts of their jobs to those
kids so they can start building
their own companies.”
Companies that could stay in
the region.
And it’s not just contracting
companies that could be built.
These worksites would train
roofers, framers, electricians,
plumbers — all of them work-
ing together and starting their
own businesses.
These are the types of jobs
that can last year-round. If there
is a lull in workload,
Grzeskowiak said, they can use
the skills they learned to do
general repair around town.
“Here are people that make a
great living going around tak-
ing small jobs for people that
don’t know how to do those
specialty pieces,” Grzeskowiak
said. “Especially in a small
community with a lot of senior
While staying in the region
after graduation is not a desire
for most high school graduates,
there are those who prefer to
“We have a lot of kids who
Grzeskowiak said. “They want
to jump right into a family busi-
ness and a regular job and get
going on a life and a family.
There’s nothing wrong with
that. They just need the oppor-
tunities to have a wage-earning
job to support that. That’s com-
ing back to getting the con-
struction/engineering program
back and running. Somebody
can learn onsite with getting a
little training coming out of
One obstacle Pierson and
Grzeskowiak have is getting
younger generations interested
in the blue-collar sector again.
There have been multiple
studies pointing to millennials’
lack of excitement about these
industries. An April 2017 arti-
cle from Builder magazine
“Is Coastal Living
in Jeopardy?”
Series List
This series covers the current hous-
ing and employment crisis facing the
Siuslaw region. Through in-depth
interviews with government offi-
cials, volunteer organizations, prop-
erty managers and employers, the
series examines the problems facing
the region, the solutions that the
community is working on and what
the community can do to help.
Nov. 15: SOS
Nov. 22: State of housing
Nov. 29: How we got here
Dec. 6: Time to step up
Dec. 13: Volunteer economy
Dec. 27: Jobs and workforce
Jan. 3: Economic development
Jan. 10: Education
This exploration of the Siuslaw
region will conclude on Jan. 17.
The series is available online at, or in print by request.
described the problem after
conducting a survey. It stated
63 percent of surveyed youth
said there was little to no
chance that they would ever
consider a profession in the
trade field, no matter how much
it paid. They thought it was too
physically difficult.
“Lazy” is a typical way mil-
lennials are described.
“I’ve seen those statistics
too,” Pierson said. “I think it’s
just a bunch of crotchety old
boomers making stuff up. I am
not a millennial basher. I’m a
boomer. We were all going to
San Francisco in the Summer
of Love. We went through our
time. And every generation
Grzeskowiak, it’s not that
younger generations are inher-
ently against these types of
jobs, it’s just that they haven’t
been exposed to it.
“We need to do a better job
in letting the students know
those are great paying jobs and
good careers,” Pierson said.
“There are a few happy
plumbers in this town that
make more than me. There’s
potential for growth and right
out of the chute, a good paying
job. As opposed to someone
who goes to a four-year univer-
sity, depending on what they’re
going into, they have to pay
their dues for years. With trade
work, your dues are paid once
you’ve got that trade certificate.
There are some that you can do
in a year or less. CNA is just six
weeks. That’s the lowest rung
of the healthcare trail, but it
will get you started and get you
a job. You’ll get job benefits.
“It’s nothing to sneeze at.”
Ultimately, it’s about giving
students choice. Give them as
many hands-on options in
grade school as possible, which
will then prepare them for a
future that is uncertain. In this
case, uncertainty is a good
“To think that everybody’s
going to make the same jump at
17 or 18 when some people
may not figure out the path
until their 20 or 30 is not realis-
tic,” Grzeskowiak said. “We
created a funnel point directly
to four-year colleges. And now,
coming back, taking the funnel,
we’re really widening it.
Community college, universi-
ties and vocational ed, whatev-
er path you pick, it’s the same.
It works. Go ahead and pick
one. And if you want to cross
over later, you can. And I think
that’s the message that’s been
lost. The decision we make at
16 or 17 doesn’t lock you in
forever. It’s rare that people
stay in one career their entire
life. Pick one, and then if you
want to move around, go right
ahead. It gives kids a little more
hope for the future.”
On the post-high school
level, Pierson is working hard
to build the kind of programs
that Grzeskowiak is gearing up
“We’re bringing CNA train-
ing here to the Florence
Center,” Pierson said. “Folks
can enter in, get their CNA cer-
tificate, find a job locally.
We’re actually partnering with
Peacehealth Peace Harbor on
this program. Employers will
want people to upgrade their
skills. There’s a pretty clear
pathway from CNA to RN cer-
Pierson is also helping cur-
rent business owners run their
business more smoothly. LCC
offers classes through its
Florence Small Business
Management Program, via the
(SBDC). The three-year pro-
gram, taught by instructor Gary
Smith, covers everything from
marketing and strategic plan-
ning to sales management and
fraud prevention.
At the main LCC campus in
Eugene, the course costs $600,
but Pierson was able to get
funding to reduce the price to
Interest in the program has
been high.
“We had 12 people initially
sign up,” Pierson said. “They
also did the same offer at the
Cottage Grove center. Nobody
signed up in Cottage Grove.
And we had 12 students.”
The course is now entering
its second year, and participants
like Florence Area Chamber of
Commerce President Bobby
Jensen sings its praises.
But future classes were put
into doubt because of budget-
ary concerns. The funding to
discount the class was delayed.
“We hoped to do the same
thing the second year, and
unfortunately, we got no infor-
mation about the funding until
it was too late,” Pierson said. ‘I
had to tell people, ‘We have this
program, maybe it’s $600?
Maybe it’s $349? Would you
sign up until we know?’”
Because of the funding con-
fusion, they missed the first
class, which was scheduled for
That doesn’t mean that
Pierson is giving up on local
“We could certainly get one
of the small business coaches
over here,” he said. “I’m also a
fan of the Regional Accelerator
(RAIN), which has a series of
pub talks where people can talk
about what they’re going
through. They’ve had special
speakers come in and talk about
financing. And that would
apply to anyone.”
Pierson is set to be the next
president of Florence Area
Chamber of Commerce.
“The Chamber makes a con-
certed effort, too. We have our
noon forums that touch up on
different aspects of business,
and they’re open to the public.
And we’ve also played around
with pub talk series. And all
free. There are a lot of free
resources available.”
He’s also working with both
local school districts to expand
LCC’s offerings into the high
“We don’t have any technical
trade space here at our facili-
ties,” Pierson said. “Closest
thing we have is an art lab, so
we’re at a disadvantage in
offering those things. But I’m
convinced that we can work
some things out with the high
schools … so we could offer
classes in their spaces.
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