Baker Technical Institute has received final approval and licensure from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to operate as a post-secondary institution.

“This has been a long process that took our team nearly a year to complete,” Andrew Bryan, BTI Board chairman and a member of the Baker School Board, stated in a press release. “We have been operating for almost seven years now, all along with the goal of achieving collegiate status that will provide even more benefits for our students and communities where we operate.

“Yes, Eastern Oregon is now the home of the state’s newest technical school, and it’s unlike any other college the state has to offer. Our goal is to provide a low-cost, high-quality, efficient, and rapid path to gaining valuable career skills,” Bryan said. “BTI programs are focused on the trades and industry certifications that are in high demand, and that fit with what a lot of people in our area value and want to do. Now people will not have to incur unnecessary costs and leave our area to be trained for some great careers.”

BTI currently offers courses for people pursuing a career in the health care industry, heavy equipment operation, welding and manufacturing, environmental cleanup, construction, and its newest program, which is truck driving and logistics training, the press release stated.

BTI also has a growing list of apprenticeship opportunities in which students earn a wage while they learn in the classroom and on the job. Currently, apprenticeship programs include inside electricians, plant electricians, medical assistants, and a heavy highway construction pre-apprenticeship program. More programs are planned.

“We are continually adding programs as industry needs arise,” Sandy Mitchell, BTI program coordinator, stated in the press release.

“Over the years, we’ve experienced significant growth, and even during the COVID crisis, last year was no exception,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s a testament to people wanting to try new careers and challenging the traditional post-secondary college route.

“What we offer at BTI is truly a different kind of education. Our goal is to help people find the career path that is right for them and provide the training they need to be successful in a new profession,” she said. “Our training programs center around hands-on practical applications that get people hired into the skilled trades as quickly as possible.”

Mitchell said BTI has seen an increased number of graduating high school seniors who are choosing to get industry certifications and prepare to enter the workforce. Others choose to seek industry training while pursuing a traditional college degree at the same time.

“Higher education is rapidly changing to meet the demands of our times,” she said. “With many colleges offering their courses online, you can train at BTI while continuing to complete your other college work as well.’

Throughout Oregon and much of the nation, career and technical training has been either significantly reduced, or even completely eliminated for many years, which has, in turn, created a serious shortage of skilled workers, the press release stated. The shortage has pushed wages higher than ever before, with fewer people vying for the open positions.

Doug Dalton, BTI president, points to the educational savings gained in attending BTI: “Students are oftentimes leaving our institution with no debt and job offers that far exceeded their expectations in a career they wanted to pursue. This builds a workforce that fuels our businesses and allows our communities in Eastern Oregon to thrive. We can now do all of this right here.”

BTI will continue to operate from its main campus in Baker City along with a campus in Prineville, which has also been approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

In addition, BTI will continue to grow its ability to train using mobile platforms. BTI currently provides workforce training throughout Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

“We strongly believe in the advantages of taking the training to other areas and communities,” Dalton said. “Our mobility has allowed students to participate in courses that they would not be able to take otherwise.

Many times people are not in a position to leave their families and their community,” Dalton says. “Instead of the traditional model of expecting students to always come to you, we have turned that concept around, and we go to them when we can. I’m not aware of anybody else doing that.”

For the near future, BTI will continue focusing on career training and industry certifications rather than degrees, according to the press release. As a post-secondary institution, BTI might at some point seek degree authorization, but given the demand for industry training, it is choosing to partner with other colleges and universities that provide the opportunities for students to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in parallel to BTI courses.

“Our goal is not to compete with other colleges, but to provide something that is not being supplied in many regions,” Dalton said. “We are actually positioned to help other colleges and universities in our area by offering career and technical courses that they may not offer, and to embed industry certifications within their current degree structures.

“For example, we have partnered with Eastern Oregon University over the years giving them exactly that,” Dalton said. “We offer courses at their campus that give students an opportunity for hands-on learning and obtaining industry certification at the same time.

EOU President Tom Insko spoke in support of the EOU programs.

“We value our partnership with BTI,” Insko said. “Working together, we created an innovative new EOU academic degree program in Sustainable Rural Systems that is designed to serve the needs of our region while creating more pathways where students gain meaningful real-world experience.

“This is the type of experiential education that allows students to learn and practice the essential skills employers everywhere are looking for,” Insko said.

BTI will continue to provide CTE courses for high school and middle school students in and around Baker County. BTI also is partnering with nine different high schools around the state to help increase its career and technical offerings by using its mobile platforms to travel to the schools and offer career and technical courses at their location.

“We are really fortunate to have BTI as part of our program here in Baker City,” said Baker School District Superintendent Mark Witty. “Our students have access to high-level career and technical courses that would rival any school of any size in the state.

“BTI has truly raised the bar for us and created a professional environment where high school students are earning certifications before they graduate, given middle students more access to hands-on learning, and even provided our elementary students with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) camps and other ways to apply their classroom learning while learning about careers they probably didn’t know existed,” Witty said.

“Our students can exit high school and move into a trade that pays high wages right out of high school” he said. “This is absolutely key to the success of many of our students as they go forward.”

For BTI, post-secondary status has two main benefits, the press release stated. First, it allows students to have more opportunities for financial assistance such as scholarships for courses. And secondly, it gives BTI the ability to partner more easily with other colleges, and at some point, to offer college credit along with the industry certifications.

BTI offers courses year-round and has created a simple and straightforward enrollment process. For more information about courses at BTI or to enroll in one of the various other programs, go to bakerti.org or call 541-524-2651 to talk to an enrollment specialist or student success coach.

High school students who live in or near Baker County and would like to take courses at Baker Technical Institute, are asked to contact BTI directly.

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