ON THE JOB
By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
It's almost the perfect marriage or the perfect employer-employee relationship.
It all began when Pamela Wilkinson, co-owner of Omnitrac, was frantically searching for someone to run the company's office on East L Avenue and called the Oregon Employment Department.
That phone call put Wilkinson in touch with the Training and Employment Consortium, known as TEC, that trains low-income people for various kinds of jobs.
TEC had a candidate: Katie McDougall of La Grande.
"I had been let go from an office job, and when I began going to interviews for a new job, I found I didn't have the skills people are looking for," McDougall said.
The La Grande High School graduate studied computer data processing and other office skills at TEC's Career Enhancement Center, and after several months, she was well prepared to face the world of work.
"When Katie walked in she had a portfolio," Wilkinson said. "I was so impressed with what she'd learned and her skills that as soon as she walked out of the interview, I said, Dennis, we're hiring Katie.'"
Dennis Wilkinson, Pamela Wilkinson's husband, is a co-owner of Omnitrac.
Pamela Wilkinson has been so happy with her employee's work, attitude, efficiency and skills, that she's on a mission to tell other employers about the value of TEC's training.
The publicly funded TEC has a budget of $249,000 for training, education and support of people who are trying to enter or re-enter the work force.
"These dollars go specifically to participant training, education and support services," said Tressa Seydel, TEC's adult program case manager.
"Any employer can call us and tell us their needs," she said. "We try to figure out what they qualify for and if we can match participants."
TEC trains young people who are just out of high school, adults who have been displaced from their jobs and adults, 55 or older.
Both Wilkinson and Seydel believe more employers could use the program.
"That's a definite," she said, "More could take advantage of the program. We try to get the word out, we're involved with Chamber of Commerce, but we always have participants who are looking for work.
"We'd love it if an employer would call us and say, This is what we need.' "
The Regional Workforce Investment Board oversees TEC and other job-support programs. Wilkinson is chair of the board.
"The workforce board is run by the private sector," she said.
In fact, 51 percent of the board members come from private business, said Donna Betts of the Northeast Oregon Alliance.
"We're trying to raise the awareness that there is a workforce system that helps employers find the right workers, provide some training for them, and the program is private-sector driven," Betts said.
Back at Omnitrac, Katie McDougall continues to improve her skills through training. She will study accounting through Blue Mountain Community College, using her computer for off-campus classes, and all the while she will continue her job.
"I love it, McDougall said about the job. "The work is a challenge. It's my opportunity to be creative."