BOARDMAN — Portland General Electric is attempting to dull the sting of upcoming mass layoffs at Boardman Coal Plant by offering employees free classes at Blue Mountain Community College.
PGE spokesman Steven Corson said the company’s $30,000 donation to BMCC to establish the program was one of the ways PGE was avoiding leaving its employees high and dry.
“We don’t want to be that company,” he said.
PGE announced its intention to cease coal-based energy production at the plant back in 2010, but they recently started talking with the more than 70 employees who work in Boardman about their post-coal plant options as the deadline loomed.
Corson said some employees talked about transferring to another PGE worksite while others mulled retiring.
But for those employees who were looking to stay in the area, the company is offering them a chance to switch careers by getting a degree or certificate at BMCC.
Corson said the program was not only meant to benefit their employees, but act as a retention tactic to ensure that employees have an incentive to continue working at the plan through its closing date on Dec. 31, 2020.
Casey White-Zollman, BMCC’s vice president of public relations, said she and BMCC Foundation Executive Director Margaret Gianotti visited the Boardman facility a few months ago and were impressed by PGE’s plan.
“This is a pretty amazing thing they’re doing,” she said.
According to White-Zollman, the PGE Boardman Scholarship Fund is open to anyone who is or will become unemployed due to the closure of the Boardman Coal Plant.
Starting with the summer term in June, scholarship recipients will get as much as $1,500 toward their tuition.
Recipients must be enrolled in at least one class, and if they maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average, they will get another $1,500 for a second term.
Corson said the scholarship fund will remain active through the end of 2021, one year after the Boardman Coal Plant is slated to close.
White-Zollman said six PGE employees have already applied for the scholarship.