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Local cemetery faces unexpected challenge as trends change

Local cemetery faces unexpected challenge as trends change

“The industry-wide challenge that we face is the majority preference for cremati...

Philanthropy coverage: Business spotlights

Philanthropy coverage: Business spotlights

There’s a tradition of philanthropy within Southwest Washington’s business commu...

Philanthropy coverage: Nonprofit spotlights

Philanthropy coverage: Nonprofit spotlights

Southwest Washington enjoys a healthy nonprofit sector. Simply put, these organi...

Talks over propane/butane export terminal at Port of Longview progressing

Talks over propane/butane export terminal at Port of Longview progressing

The Port of Longview and Haven Energy are “finding common commercial ground” in ...

Dancing with the Local Stars raises $154,000

Dancing with the Local Stars raises $154,000

Saturday's Dancing with the Local Stars raised $154,000, according to a report f...

Developer hopes to construct Uptown Apartments in early 2015

Developer hopes to construct Uptown Apartments in early 2015

Pending approval from the city of Vancouver, construction of the Uptown Apartmen...

Technology & Electronic Solutions

Cloud computing becoming the new norm, despite concerns

Cloud computing becoming the new norm, despite concerns

After hundreds of naked celebrity photos were allegedly hacked from Apple’s iCloud this Labor Day weekend, many are questioning the security of “the cloud.” But that hasn’t stopped the steady influx of businesses switching from in-house data storage to cloud-based solutions.

Integra, a communications and networking company headquartered in Vancouver, released data estimating that 70 percent of bu...

Innovation & Manufacturing

Manufacturers investing in the future

Manufacturers investing in the future

Invest in what you do. That is the mantra of many Southwest Washington manufacturers this year, as they pour significant investments into new facilities, equipment and infrastructure.

Take ProTech Composites, for example. This carbon fiber manufacturer grew sales 57 percent last year and projects 30 percent growth this year. Jeff Olsen, ProTech Composites president, said that the company is on tr...

News Briefs

County seeks to fill Animal Control Advisory Board vacancy

The Board of County Commissioners is seeking applicants for a position on the volunteer Animal Protection & Control Advisory Board. The vacancy is for an at-large position, beginning Jan. 1, 2015.


Current Home Technologies: Market growth fueling elaborate installations

Current Home Technologies: Market growth fueling elaborate installations

Tony Curtis, owner of Current Home Technologies, has been a professional integrator since 1997. Back then, dedicated theater rooms sparked the imagination of homeowners everywhere, but the technology of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel audio only whispered at the capabilities of the completely integrated home experience that Current Home Technologies provides residents with today.

Despite unwitt...

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

New industry: Can Vancouver be at the forefront of carbon fiber recycling?

New industry: Can Vancouver be at the forefront of carbon fiber recycling?

Once associated only with skunk works aircraft and exotic automobiles exclusively available to the world’s elite, carbon...

Returning innovation to the manufacturing sector

Returning innovation to the manufacturing sector

Double entry bookkeeping is a concept that is over 500 years old. You might ask, “What can we learn about innovation fro...

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