By Kate Chester – Director of Community Engagement, Portland Community College
Manufacturing can be likened to the key that revs Oregon’s economic engine.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry represents 21.8 percent of Oregon’s total output, ranking the state as the second most dependent in the nation on manufacturing. In 2017, Oregon was home to nearly 6,200 manufacturing establishments, representing 189,000 jobs — more than 10 percent of the state’s employment according to the State of Oregon Employment Department. And this number is projected to grow; between 2014 and 2024, an uptick of 11.8 percent (62,000 job openings) is predicted.
Yet while the sector’s wages are well above the state average, its demographics jeopardize the industry’s long-term viability. Compared to other industries, a relatively large percentage of Oregon’s manufacturing workers are age 55 or older. Acknowledging the “silver tsunami” on the cusp of retirement, all nine of Oregon’s local workforce development boards have made manufacturing a priority in their regions.
Mirroring this focus is the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center – OMIC for short – based in Scappoose.
OMIC Manufacturing Day Event, Makers Gone Pro West
Modeled after the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in England, OMIC represents a collaboration of industry, higher education and government seeking to combine applied research and development and workforce training, in the metals manufacturing industry. The effort will serve advanced manufacturers in the region while giving area residents access to living-wage careers in a growing industry sector.
“OMIC will be transformational for Columbia County and northwest Oregon, and I am excited to see it continue to grow and move forward,” said U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, whose congressional district includes Columbia County. “Advanced manufacturing has a bright future in Oregon.”
The effort has thoughtfully integrated both research and development and workforce training, to ensure long-term success. OMIC’s R&D partnership (http://www.omic.us) operates out of a facility owned by the Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech). Near-term manufacturing challenges are addressed through applied research and advanced technical training led by faculty from Oregon Tech, Portland State University and Oregon State University.
Complementing the R&D collaborative is workforce training directed by Portland Community College. Within the next year, Oregon’s largest postsecondary institution is slated to build a training center near the R&D facility, housing such programs as computer numerically controlled operation, machining, welding, and mechatronics. Its programs will be based on an apprenticeship model, giving students work-based learning experience as they complete certificates or associate degrees, then move directly into advanced manufacturing jobs or pursue advanced degrees.
“One of the greatest take-away learnings from our study of AMRC in England was the importance of connectivity between workforce training and R&D,” said Marc Goldberg, associate vice president for Workforce Development and Continuing Education at PCC.
“Students, business and industry, and research flourished there because of the proximity to one another, and the sharing of knowledge and resources.”
Last month PCC greenlighted a purchase and sale agreement on more than 17 acres of property near the OMIC R&D facility. Construction for the training center is anticipated to begin in summer 2019, with Mortenson Construction and Hennebery Eddy Architects tapped as the facility design build team. Until the center opens, estimated to be fall 2020, courses will be taught at temporary locations, including at Scappoose High School.
Earlier this year PCC saw the formation of a Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee made up of representatives from Vigor, Evraz, Rightline Equipment and JC Customer Machine & Design. JATCs add legitimacy, establishing standards for occupations that align with nationally recognized credentials and developing apprenticeships – and in PCC’s case, contributing to the approval of its first OMIC registered apprenticeship standards, for machinists, by the Oregon State Apprenticeship and Training Council.
“PCC’s training center will provide workers with both the classroom and on-the-job learning they need to fill high-demand, living wage jobs in advanced manufacturing,” said Bonamici, who attended OMIC’s “Makers Gone Pro West” event in October. Offering hands-on activities for participants to learn about the manufacturing industry, the event attracted nearly 300 local area high school students, manufacturers and robotics teams, making it a well-received, educational method to entice the next generation of makers – and impress Bonamici.
“I am proud to be a champion for OMIC and will continue to support efforts that use education to strengthen our local economy.”
Learn more about OMIC and apprenticeships at Portland Community College at www.pcc.edu.
PCC is the largest postsecondary institution in Oregon and provides training, degree and certificate completion, and lifelong learning to more than 73,000 full- and part-time students in Multnomah, Washington, Yamhill, Clackamas, and Columbia counties.