Grays Harbor College has been an integral part of the community serving both Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties for more than 80 years. Originally tied to the once-burgeoning timber industry, the school has evolved to provide opportunities for today’s economic climate and emerging jobs. To do that effectively, the college must not only work closely with local community and business leaders, but it needs to keep its finger on the pulse of economic trends that are likely to impact the area.

“Everything we do is to help connect people with their dreams,” Grays Harbor College president Dr. Jim Minkler explained. “A lot of people dream of a good career and we are here to help them shape that career in ways they may not imagine.”

One of the ways Dr. Minkler sees the college serving the dreams of people in the community is to help them realize the resources that a two-year college can provide. Many students can enroll at Grays Harbor College and after two-years of affordable education, they can transfer to another university and finish their BA or BS degree saving significant resources and cost. Nearly all the public and private universities in Washington state accept transfer credit from the college, allowing students to enroll as juniors.

“The four-year college experience can be incredibly expensive,” added Minkler. “Not only in terms of tuition but cost of living that can be much higher when you leave our rural community. That cost shouldn’t get in the way of people pursuing their dreams and Grays Harbor College can help people achieve those bachelor degree goals and then help them apply that education right back here in the community when they are done.”

But the college provides much more than a stepping stone to traditional higher education. Grays Harbor College works closely with community leaders and those in the business community to provide training and education for a host of careers resulting in certificates, licensures, applied associate degrees, and now three bachelor of applied science degrees vital to the future economic growth of the region.

From CDL licensing to health care technician training, Grays Harbor College responds to the current demands for jobs and provides a pathway for those seeking employment and for businesses to find local qualified talent.

“It’s about connecting opportunity to needs in the community,” Minkler noted. “When we can match people with jobs that help them improve their lives while solving problems for businesses, we help strengthen the economic fabric we all rely upon.”

When asked about the potential for coordinating with the proposed Gateway Center, Minkler saw it as a natural partnership.

“We’re already working with local business leaders and organizations like Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. as we see ourselves as an integral piece of the puzzle for creating economic development in the region,” he added. “If we could house those organizations and resources in a single, centrally located building that is not only convenient but creates a memorable impression for current and future businesses looking to grow on the Harbor, we could create even more impact in the work we do and see real meaningful results.”

Minkler shared an example of the kind of opportunity that can be accomplished when organizations are more able to integrate around a shared goal of economic development.

When he was in Spokane prior to his arrival in Grays Harbor, the college there connected with local businesses and event groups to identify a need to create more audio technicians for the many traveling concerts, and other events that came through the city.

Though the need for audio technicians did not show up on supply/demand labor market reports, when he learned of the opportunity he was able to partner with subject matter experts in the community to make the case that there was an increasing need which would only grow in the next five years. It became clear that the local community college needed to respond sooner rather than later to be prepared to meet the demand. As a result, the school was able to secure funding to start an audio technician training program and by the time it was up and running and students began to graduate, the demand was there and waiting for them.

“That kind of forward-thinking planning can only happen in an environment of collaboration and coordination,” Minkler added.

With substantial growth in travel and tourism as well as health care in the community, many are already noting the demand for jobs in these areas will grow in the next few years. More and more people in the Puget Sound region who are prospering in the economic boom of the region are finding their way to Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties to recreate. At the same time, the local population is aging and demand for qualified health care providers is growing.

“We are starting to see the economic trends already,” Minkler added. “Together we can build a pathway to meet the needs those opportunities will create that will improve the overall vitality of our economy.”

Those interested in learning more about training opportunities or businesses looking to build programs to feed into their job needs are encouraged to reach out to the college at 360-532-9020.