North Medford H.S. hoping to help fill manufacturing skills gap

White City, Ore. — Manufacturing is the cornerstone to the local economy, but finding a new generation of workers could prove difficult.

On Friday, local businesses gathered to focus on the future of the industry and discuss ways to open a career path to kids who need one.

“Number one concern among our manufacturers is where will they find their workforce,” SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla.

Manufacturing companies from all over the Rogue Valley came together Friday for networking and learning opportunities.

Their focus – filling the skills gap that makes it so hard to hire employees within the state.

“Right now it’s very difficult to find manufacturing employees in the valley because it’s very competitive,” Carestream Materials Manager Mike Donnelly said.

A job vacancy for a manufacturer means a big loss in revenue.

“So with 50,000 to 65,000 vacancies every quarter in Oregon, that’s a $9 billion dollar loss of revenue to Oregon businesses,” keynote Pat Scruggs said.

According to SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla, the gap can be filled by bringing awareness to manufacturing opportunities in the valley.

But schools also need to groom future generations of industrial workers.

“Manufacturing in the Rogue Valley is a very strong industry and we’ve been preparing students for that industry by helping them earn certificate in SolidWorks,” North Medford High School Principal Dan Smith said.

SolidWorks is a solid-modeling computer-aid design software.

North Medford High School Principal Dan Smith says the school offers a program using the same software used at Rogue Community College and out in the real world.

“We have 3D milling machines here and so students had to first print this out and design it on their computer and then have it talk to the milling machine to actually create it,” Smith said.

Smith says the program allows students to earn up to 18 credits toward the certification at RCC.

“Right now they’re having a tough time finding those workers that are geared up and ready to go and qualified. We’re really working to prepare our students to fill that gap,” Smith said.

Last year, North Medford High School had five students earn a certification with the SolidWorks software.

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