Congresswoman applauds the UO's career training efforts

US Rep. Val Hoyle and Laura Lee McIntyre of the UO

U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle met with University of Oregon College of Education leaders and faculty members Thursday to discuss programs that train students for licensed professions and to find ways to get more students into the workforce, with or without a college degree.

Hoyle also toured the college’s HEDCO Clinic, where she met with undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees and providing counseling services to community members.

About 50 percent of jobs require more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree, Hoyle said during her visit to the UO.

“We have to rethink how we’re training our workforce,” she said. “We need to connect young people to jobs and career opportunities and do training differently than we’re doing now, because it’s not working for employers, it’s not working for students, and it’s not working for institutions of higher education.”

Hoyle, a Democrat, is beginning her first term representing Oregon’s 4th District in Congress, where she succeeded Peter DeFazio, who retired after 36 years. She previously served as Oregon’s labor commissioner and in the Oregon House of Representatives.

In addition to college leaders and faculty members, Thursday’s roundtable discussion included Kurt Freeman, director of the Institute on Development and Disability at Oregon Health & Science University. The institute has operated a clinic at the UO since 1969.

Hoyle said she’d like to see the UO and other higher education institutions, including community colleges, take a more innovative approach to training workers by including nondegree programs that provide certifications and licensing as well as apprenticeship programs.

“We have to look at things differently, and one of the things I love about working with people at the UO is they’re willing to be creative, but because of the way we fund higher education, it’s really degree-centric,” she said.

Laura Lee McIntyre, interim dean of the College of Education, agreed it’s important to innovate when it comes to educating the workers of tomorrow.

“What we need to do is have more partnerships with other institutions of higher education but also more community-based practice partnerships,” she said. “When I think about the needs of the next generation of the workforce, particularly in the College of Education and the professions we develop, I think of the need for experiential learning, and having partnerships with communities and schools is going to be a cornerstone of our work.”

She noted the College of Education not only trains students to be K-12 teachers but also to be specialized professionals such as speech-language pathologists and audiologists. The college operates the HEDCO Clinic, a training facility that provides services to the community, including speech and language therapy, individual and family counseling, and evaluations of attention and learning disabilities.

“We can introduce people to those professions through a variety of pathways that get them into the door to employment,” she said.

That might include programs that train them to be speech-language pathologist assistants or technicians, for instance.

“Not everyone is going to go to graduate school,” McIntyre said. “Not everyone will be a licensed professional, but everyone needs a job and a livable wage.”

Expanding clinics and professional training programs to serve the needs of the community requires true partnerships and collaborations with other agencies and institutions of higher education, she said. 

“I think the College of Education is uniquely positioned to do that work because of applied programs and our existing partnerships with schools,” she said. “We can expand that focus with some effort and some intention to develop partnerships with other agencies.”

The College of Education has a decades-long record of national and international research and development in areas such as special education, prevention science, K-12 education and leadership.

That culture of research, innovation, and community engagement is unique and highly influential because faculty members have a long tradition of translating research into effective models, methods, and measures that improve lives, McIntyre said.

By Tim Christie, University Communications