PCC serves Oregon’s advanced manufacturing industry with training hub
Change is constant, meaning what was old can be revolutionized so that it’s new, hot and vogue — like the field of manufacturing.
According to the World Economic Forum and leading economists, manufacturing is part of the fourth industrial revolution, undergirded by advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence. Simulation, automation, 3-D printing and the Internet of Things … all are helping to shape the way goods are produced and how the economy functions.
Locally, Oregon’s manufacturing industry reports a need for shorter, quicker training programs to keep up with such change and to engage more young people in these careers.
Portland Community College, Oregon’s largest institution of higher education with four comprehensive campuses and multiple workforce training centers, is tracking these trends and adapting itself so that its graduates will have the knowledge and new skills needed by manufacturers. To do this, PCC has created a menu of options ranging from introductory classes to spur interest in the field, to constructing an advanced manufacturing training center, to establishing one of the most state-of-the-art machine shops in the region.
In partnership with several state agencies, the college’s Community Workforce Development Division provides access to training and education. To expose a new generation of students to advanced manufacturing, the division has launched the non-credit “On-Ramp to Manufacturing” course where students explore careers in manufacturing, work with a career coach to refine their educational path, and then enroll in a relevant PCC training program.
Virtual Manufacturing Day
Every year, partners with OMIC R&D host Manufacturing Day for Columbia County high school students — the largest of its kind in Oregon. In late 2020, though, the pandemic forced the partners to rethink the event so that area students could still connect with the trades skills and careers.
Throughout October 2020, Virtual Manufacturing Day featured St. Helens High School metals and manufacturing students conducting taped interviews with trades people from companies like USiA, Vigor, Cobot Team and Autodesk. The student-led interviews covered topics on what it’s like to work in the trades, the skills and training required and how to prepare for a career in advanced manufacturing.
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“We’re really trying to look at trends in advanced manufacturing as the world has gone more remote and online,” said Sarah Tillery, executive dean of teaching and learning support. “Going forward, we’ll see more of a technical skill set rather than a craftsmen skill set in this industry. We’re taking advantage of technology, and our new training center will be the centerpiece.”
When it opens in 2021, PCC’s OMIC Training Center will connect students to careers in advanced manufacturing and offer crucial skills training. The training facility resides at the college’s Columbia County Center, which is PCC’s first permanent physical location in Columbia County and will host a range of educational opportunities and collaborate with industry partners.
The training facility is the educational arm of the nearby Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC) Research & Development — a collaboration of industry, higher education and government focused on providing applied research and development and workforce training. PCC’s training center will house a number of manufacturing-related programs, including machining, welding and mechatronics. It also has plans to offer innovative training, including pre-trades programs designed to introduce people to manufacturing trades and apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom and lab instruction in a state-approved “Earn as You Learn” model.
“As we work to respond to the uncertain economic times, manufacturers continue to play a critical role in our region by doing what they do best — innovating and adapting to the demands of the changing economy,” said Andrew Lattanner, director of PCC’s OMIC Training Center. “The same is true of the manufacturing workforce, which must continue to develop new skills to operate smarter technologies and build stronger, higher-quality, and more advanced products more efficiently.”
Last summer, a partnership involving OMIC R&D, community organizations and PCC piloted Columbia Works, a paid internship for high school age students. The program offered career-related opportunities to those wanting to explore digital tools, like augmented reality and virtual reality technology, robotics and video production. The learning centered on finding solutions to real-world challenges faced by advanced manufacturers. PCC provided the young interns professional development tools, and career and college preparation advising.
“Columbia Works is about helping students explore their future by creating a community to support them on the path they choose, including opportunities in advanced manufacturing,” added Lattanner.
The launch of Columbia Works was funded in part by the PCC Foundation, the college’s philanthropic arm that oversees student scholarships and program funding. The foundation has a longstanding history of supporting opportunities for advanced manufacturing learning; for more than 10 years, the foundation has supported rapid prototyping summer camps for robotics teams, to engage high school students interested in manufacturing, design and engineering.
Delivering instructional support to these camps and PCC’s OMIC Training Center is the college’s Machine Manufacturing Technology Program. The program has been retrofitted with new advanced manufacturing machinery, including manual builder-style machinery and the latest computer numerical control (CNC) machines and turning centers, making it one of the best in Oregon.
“We have the most state-of-the-art college shop around with our new purchases,” said Scott Stewart, machine manufacturing faculty. “And we’re working to develop future online classes to help with training and provide the skills our industry partners require.”