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Heads up, east Linn County high school seniors: Those employment scores your schools are issuing just took on a whole new meaning.

Linn-Benton Community College is offering a Common Manufacturing Core Certificate this summer that comes with a guaranteed entry-level job to students who achieve the certificate. And the college is using E-scores to prioritize applicants.

Bruce Clemetsen, vice president of student affairs, gave a report Wednesday on the plan to the college's Board of Education. 

The certificate program is made possible by expansion of the Pipeline project earlier this year to four east Linn County high schools — Lebanon, Sweet Home, Central Linn and Scio — and to the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, which serves youth in Lebanon and Sweet Home.

Pipeline is a partnership between educators, manufacturers, health care and other business and government officials. Established in 2015, it's meant to build connections between students and future jobs in local manufacturing industries.

Pipeline started with Albany schools. A $455,000 grant from the Ford Family Foundation helped drive the expansion east and is paying for the instructor for the manufacturing certificate, Clemetsen said.

Here's how the certificate program will work: LBCC will have about 20 slots, possibly more, for high school seniors interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing but unsure which direction to take. 

The students will take a 10-week series of summer classes in welding, mechatronics and other manufacturing opportunities at LBCC. Students who achieve the certificate will then decide on a direction and be linked with employers offering an entry-level job in the chosen area. 

The students will then work for the employers while continuing to go to LBCC to further their knowledge in the industry.

Because the Pipeline expansion is specifically targeted to east Linn County, a certain number of slots are guaranteed to go to students in Lebanon, Scio, Central Linn and Sweet Home, Clemetsen said. The number of available jobs will help determine how many other certificates can be awarded.

All four schools now issue students an employability score, or E-score, along with their usual grades. The scores are a 1-5 rating that take into account attendance, behavior, tardiness and other so-called "soft skills," such as how well students work as a team and how often they complete their homework.

E-scores will be used to choose the students who attend the manufacturing program, Clemetsen said.

Students for whom tuition might be a problem may be eligible for vouchers through the Workforce Investment Board, he said.

Part of the goal of the Pipeline expansion is to increase graduation rates, Clemetsen said. If even a handful of students decide the promise of a job is worth sticking around to complete a diploma, that should help boost the numbers.

Jim Merryman, chairman of the LBCC Board of Education and president and chief executive officer of Oregon Freeze Dry — and an E-score advocate — said he often hears from students who don't understand why they have to take certain subjects. That's where Pipeline can help, he said.

"There is an endgame here, and the endgame is a job," Merryman said. "They need to understand what's out there at an early age, so they know, 'That interests me.' Or, 'That doesn't interest me.'"

The idea of Pipeline is that students who decide they're interested in pursuing a manufacturing career add to the ranks at LBCC and go on to fill open positions in local companies who are hard-pressed to find enough trained workers, Clemetsen said.

Part of Pipeline's expansion involves monitoring which students take advantage of Pipeline opportunities, what they end up studying and where they go afterward for a job. 

"The goal of this is sustainability," he said.


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