Manufacturing Day turns into a virtual event in Columbia County

Columbia County Spotlight

Traditionally, Manufacturing Day is held for students in Columbia County to advance the idea of manufacturing as a career option. It’s typically held the first Friday of October.

But this year, with the coronavirus pandemic, the yearly event had to be modified into a virtual Manufacturing Day. With the help of Portland Community College, Northwest STEM Hub, Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center R&D, St. Helens High School, and the Workforce Board, students had a chance to view helpful videos.

“For the past several years, a group of community partners have put together large Manufacturing Day events, where we invite industry and students to OMIC R&D,” explained PCC’s Andrew Lattaner, who will be the Scappoose center’s training director when it opens at OMIC next year.

“Last year was the largest Manufacturing Day in the state,” Lattanner recalled. “We brought 46 industry and academic partners to OMIC R&D and about 350 students. It was a really fun event. It was an opportunity for students not only to meet with employers but to also participate in hands-on activities and learn more about careers in manufacturing.”

Although students couldn’t gather at OMIC in person this year, Lattanner said the virtual Manufacturing Day offered a video tour of the under-construction PCC training center.

OMIC R&D, just across the street from the PCC center, also put together a tutorial for students to learn how to read a technical blueprint.

Lattanner likes to think of this year as providing an opportunity to turn Manufacturing Day into “Manufacturing Month.”

“We released these videos over the course of the month of October in an effort to keep these opportunities fresh in students’ minds,” he said.

Lattanner gives a lot of credit for October’s virtual event to Bonnie Adams, who teaches metals and manufacturing at St. Helens High School.

“Bonnie’s students have traditionally served as ambassadors for Manufacturing Day,” he said. “They’ve always played a leadership role.”

Adams was motivated to help launch a virtual Manufacturing Day.

“I knew that there was going to be a really good chance we would not be in school,” Adams said. “I knew it would be really easy to say, ‘oh, we’ll just do something next year.’” I also knew my kids loved Manufacturing Day and they really enjoyed going to it. They really enjoyed being part of it. I did not want to lose that with them because it’s such a good motivator for my class.”

Adams continued, “It also puts the kids in a position of responsibility.”

The Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center has strong boosters in Salem and Washington, D.C.

“Like so many other activities this year, Manufacturing Day had to adapt to the reality of COVID, but typical of OMIC R&D, we found a way to deliver,” said state Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Scappoose lawmaker and leading proponent. “In fact, we turned it into Manufacturing Month.”

Johnson added, “Through a collaboration between local schools, Portland Community College, the Northwest STEM Hub, Congresswoman (Suzanne) Bonamici’s office and myself, we were able to provide virtual tours and training opportunities to showcase the employment opportunities available in manufacturing for a wide range of students.”

For her part, Bonamici remarked, “I’m a champion for OMIC because it is accelerating our regional economy while creating more opportunities for students and workers.”

Bonamici said she’s modeled a bipartisan bill, the PARTNERS Act, on the business partnerships at OMIC R&D. Career and technical education is one of the bill’s components, fitting in with the theme of Manufacturing Day.

Adams is happy that local students were able to connect with industry.

“It was just really inspiring to see them actually excited about talking to the actual people who do this work,” Adams said.