By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visited Baker City Saturday to tour the Baker Technical Institute and meet with several Baker High School students who have found their passion through BTI programs.

One student, senior Dawson Vanderwiele, who is the first woman and youngest person to be a CAT Simulator certified instructor, hopes the governor’s visit will bring more light on career and technical programs.

“I really hope that her seeing BTI and the amount of jobs it is creating for high school students increases the amount of technical funding in Oregon,” Vanderwiele said.

Brown’s tour started in the health services room, where BTI President Doug Dalton gave an overview of the history.

BTI’s roots are in the recession of 2007 to 2009. Dalton detailed how the district trimmed expenses to attain financial stability.

“When we were done cutting, that wasn’t enough,” he said.

The next steps were to create two charter schools, Baker Web Academy and Baker Early College.

Then came the 40-40-20 plan from the governor’s office in 2011. The goal of this Senate bill was that, by 2025, 40 percent of Oregonians would have a baccalaureate degree or higher, 40 percent would have an associate degree or certificate in a skilled occupation and the remaining 20 percent have at least a high school diploma.

The vision for BTI developed into a program “that trains our students for technical, high-demand careers while working with industry to create a workforce for our region that can drive economic development,” said Baker School District Superintendent Mark Witty.

As Brown listened, Dalton explained three focuses that came from the learning process: Listen to industry to determine needed skills, teach career success skills (be on time, be a problem-solver), and provide a choice for education.

“Graduation isn’t the finish line. Did you find your passion?” he said. “We need to run like a startup company with passion and focus.”

To that, Brown added:

“You’re also the only program, as far as I know, that is addressing the needs of high school students and career adults.”

Dalton nodded and pointed out Clint Morrison from Behlen, who has hired 70 welders who gained skills at BTI.

“It doesn’t seem big but...” Dalton said.

Brown nodded, noting that 70 jobs in Baker City equates to thousands in Portland.

Then she heard from Jacquelyn Sanders, a BHS senior, who is a CNA (certified nursing assistant) and is training to be a phlebotomist. She was always interested in nursing, and discovered that she could pursue that through BTI.

“I thought ‘maybe I can build up to my career,’ ” Sanders said.

Her goal, she told Brown, is to be an ER Life Flight nurse.

The next stop on the tour was to engineering, where student Mason Tomac explained how he uses a 3-D printer to create a tangible product he has designed in class.

In the next room, senior Eva Jones-Bedolla gave a quick PowerPoint presentation to explain the brownfield projects to clean up local properties, the first of which was an old machine shop with asbestos in the walls and petroleum in the soil.

The students, she said, write the request for proposals and requests for quotation and grants, as well as hire the consultants and work with a legal team to purchase and repurpose properties.

“When do you graduate? We need you now,” Brown said to Jones-Bedolla.

The senior said she’s been in the brownfield class since her freshman year.

“It’s changed my whole perspective,” she said.

See more in the April 30, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.