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 Business Growth Award finalists announced

Business Growth Award finalists announced

14 businesses have been named finalists for the Vancouver Business Journal's 201...

Is Food Processing part of Port “Comprehensive Scheme”?

Is Food Processing part of Port “Comprehensive Scheme”?

The leaders of a Clark County food processing company will bring their efforts t...

Developers cautious but developing

Developers cautious but developing

Although the Great Recession is behind us, many businesses and individuals are s...

Exploring Business Case for Tesoro-Savage Oil Terminal

Exploring Business Case for Tesoro-Savage Oil Terminal

In a few weeks, Tesoro-Savage will publish an economic impact study, conducted b...

The Art of the Deal

The Art of the Deal

Local business transaction attorneys agree -- deals are deals. However, they als...

Excursion company bringing riverboat, regional office to Vancouver

Excursion company bringing riverboat, regional office to Vancouver

The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC), a Memphis-based excursion/tour comp...

Design & Construction

Commercial development: Building for tomorrow

Commercial development: Building for tomorrow

If commercial developers feel like circus performers walking a tightrope, there is good reason.

Limited financing, escalating regulatory and raw material costs, and still-low property valuations make penciling out a project difficult. And yet, workforce trends and emerging technologies demand designs that look to the future.

Build to the budget

According to Ron Frederiksen, president of RSV Bui...

Real Estate & Development

Developers cautious but developing

Developers cautious but developing

Although the Great Recession is behind us, many businesses and individuals are still feeling the effects. Local developers were some of the hardest-hit, and for a few years now have been consistently saying that they’re still digging their way out. As building season for 2014 gets underway, we checked in with a few local developers to see how business is looking for this year and beyond. Are we fi...

News Briefs

Ten things: How to better connect with your legislators

Seven state legislators gathered at the Heathman Lodge this afternoon to discuss the previous legislative session in Olympia with members of the business community.

Participants in the second annual “Legislative Review Luncheon” included Sen. Don Benton; Sen. Annette Cleveland; Rep. Paul Harris; Rep. Ed Orcutt; Rep. Liz Pike; Sen. Ann Rivers; and Rep. Brandon Vick.


Blind Onion Pizza poised for future growth

Blind Onion Pizza poised for future growth

Gene Schwendiman brought 30 years of restaurant management and operations experience to Blind Onion Pizza in 2001. Over the years, the number of stores expanded and contracted, slicing into new territory until three separate markets developed – Portland, Vancouver and Reno. The ownership group agreed to divide and conquer, each partner retreating into individual entities, with Schwendiman focusing...

WSUV prepares digitally savvy workforce

In order to survive and thrive, companies must understand the role digital media plays in their customers’ lives and begin finding ways to integrate digital media into their business plans.

In order to survive and thrive, companies must understand the role digital media plays in their customers’ lives and begin finding ways to integrate digital media into their business plans.

So said Dene Grigar, associate professor and director of Washington State University Vancouver’s Digital Technology and Culture program, the goal of which is to ensure graduates have the skills to deal with the increasing digital and technical demand.

By focusing on four main skills sets – critical thinking, computers and digital environments, communications and project management and teamwork – the program prepares “well-trained designers who can lead companies into the digital media world,” Grigar said.

Examples of careers for which DTC graduates are prepared include information architecture, public relations and marketing, digital media design and content strategy.

Digital explosion

A March 2007 study by IDC, a global market intelligence firm, predicted that digital data will increase six-fold by 2010.

“This explosive growth will change the way organizations and Information Technology professionals do their jobs,” said Mark Lewis, executive vice president of EMC, a Fortune 500 manufacturer of software and systems for information management and storage.

The DTC program’s enrollment is tracking business’ increased focus on all things digital. Enrollment in the program jumped from 77 in the fall of 2006 to 140 this fall. Grigar and fellow associate professor John Barber constantly seek feedback from local companies to determine what skills are needed, host lectures and workshops in the community and provide educational programs for public school and community college students.

While the information technology sector will appreciate graduates with broad critical, analytical, and communication skills, DTC graduates are not relegated to just computer-related industries. Arts-related industries also need technologically literate workers capable taking advantage of new digital technologies.

Such is the case at Techjet Imaging, a Vancouver-based large-format printing company, which hired DTC graduate Justin Lee last year.

“Justin is a poster child for the DTC program,” said TechJet Vice President Jason Beatty. “He was raised here, got his degree here, got a job here and is using his skills practically.”

Increasing demand for applied skills     

A 2006 study funded in part by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills found that “applied skills such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication are essential for success at work…These applied skills trump basic knowledge skills such as reading and mathematics in importance in the view of employers.”

In addition, almost 75 percent of those surveyed ranked “creativity and innovation” in the top five applied skills projected to increase in importance for future graduates.  

Recognizing this trend early on, WSUV’s DTC program was one of the first in the nation, Grigar said. It was founded in 1997. The program was so ahead of its time, the university didn’t know where to put it – finally placing it in the Department of English. It became a four-year degree program in 2003 and will become a stand-alone department in 2009. In addition, Grigar said, WSUV is considering adding an online DTC master’s program in 2010.

In the last 10 years, programs like the one at WSUV have emerged across the country – Grigar said there are now more than 500 in the United States – but WSUV is recognized as a trend-setter.

“We’re a destination major now,” Grigar said.

Real-world experience

Students in the DTC program often work on projects for local companies and nonprofit organizations. This work, said Grigar, represents a commitment to community outreach – the mission of a land-grant institution.

During their senior year, DTC students must complete either a 150-hour internship with a metro-area business or work on a project for a local nonprofit organization. Students have interned with PeaceHealth Hospital in Longview, Organic Products Trading Co. in Vancouver and the Vancouver City Planning Commission.

They have worked on pro bono projects for The Ark, Clark County Fire District 11 in Battle Ground, the At Home At School program and the Council for the Homeless. Plans for this fall include work with the Columbia River Economic Development Council and Fort Vancouver Community Television.

The local business community’s response to the program has been positive, Grigar said.

“Companies realize they need this kind of expertise,” she said.

Historically, Beatty said, students have had to go outside the area to gain this type of education – and may not have come back. The DTC program, he said, will do much to keep graduates local and serves as a “great source of qualified local candidates who are ready to go to work in the high-tech world.”

Bridgette Fahnbulleh, community voicemail coordinator for the Council for the Homeless, was enthusiastic about the DTC students’ work.

“We wanted a video we could give to the business community that explained our GoPhone Society,” Fahnbulleh said. The students, she said, did the cover, the soundtrack, taping, interviewing and wrote the script in two months.

She was so impressed with the students’ work, she plans on having them create a training video for case workers this fall.

Internships and projects, Barber said, provide students with real-world experience, a chance to develop a network of contacts and the opportunity to be mentored by professionals in the field. In addition, he said, students can develop a portfolio and learn the value of community service.

“It’s not so much about placing students in high-dollar opportunities but about finding a place where they can practice skills and appreciate the rewards of giving back to their community,” Barber said.


Recognizing the need for continued improvement in high-tech workforce skills, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 6377 into law in March. The bill’s intent is to “identify the gaps in current laws and policies regarding secondary career and technical education and fill those gaps in a comprehensive fashion to create a coherent whole.”

Rick Meeder, American Electronics Association Washington Council executive committee member and education committee chair, called the bill a “comprehensive career and technical education bill.”

American Electronics Association is a nationwide nonprofit trade association that represents all segments of the technology industry.

According to the bill’s summary, it “seeks to increase the quality and rigor of secondary career and technical education, improve links to postsecondary education, encourage and facilitate academic instruction through career and technical courses and expand access to and awareness of the opportunities offered by high quality career and technical education.”


Focus Column

Building “failures” and how to avoid them

Building “failures” and how to avoid them

The recent collapses of the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River and the floor of the Vancouver Warehouse and Distribution C...

“THINK”ing about construction

“THINK”ing about construction

A surprising resource in Clark County is the “THINK!” program, which is a collaboration between the Building Industry As...

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