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Local companies, partners power Columbia Works internship program

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Kid with robot.

Scappoose’s Christian Bilton inspects a robotic vehicle during the Columbia Works Internship at OMIC R&D.

For the second straight year, a group of Columbia County high school students have spent their summer working with mentors from the manufacturing industry through Columbia Works, a paid internship program hosted by Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Research and Development (OMIC R&D). This year’s cohort, which began on July 1 and ended Aug. 26, includes 13 students from Scappoose and St. Helens high schools. 

Following the successful pilot program last summer, companies like Oregon Tool, InRoads Credit Union, Intel, and Calbag Metals, as well as individuals like former Boeing executive Don Hendrickson, stepped up to lend their support and expertise to grow the work-based learning program through sponsorship, mentorships and professional development trainings. 

A founding member of the OMIC R&D initiative, Portland-based multinational company Oregon Tool, sponsored a Columbia Works scholarship in addition to its active professional development role. It’s all part of a strategic effort to expand industry knowledge and increase exposure to manufacturing careers that ultimately benefits the entire field. 

Kid with robot.

Keora O’Meara loves learning about manufacturing techniques.

“Oregon Tool feels it is important to be global stewards and be involved in and give back to the communities we are in,” Director of Engineering and R&D Laboratories Kaitlyn McNaughton said. “Youth internships are a wonderful way for students to get exposure and hands-on experience in STEM careers.”

In addition to the unique opportunity to build a network and explore an advanced manufacturing career, McNaughton said the access to industry leaders from local companies like Ineality, WTBO, Sage Machines and Oregon Aero can be a formative experience for a young person taking their first professional steps.

Columbia Works has developed a wonderful model of providing mentors to teach and work with students during this summer program,” she said. “All of the OMIC partners are people who love what they do and want to share their passion with the next generation.” 

Business partners outside of the manufacturing sector have also found opportunities to share knowledge and expertise. Staff from St. Helens-based InRoads Credit Union has presented on financial education and literacy, broadening the information Columbia Works students take away from the experience.

“InRoads is proud to partner with the Columbia Works Internship program,” Business Development Manager Jason Moos said. “By collaborating with and supporting this program, we are hopeful that we can help today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders face and overcome any financial obstacles.” 

Columbia Works was created through a collaborative effort between OMIC R&D, Portland Community College’s Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Training Center, NW STEM Hub, Scappoose High School and St. Helens High School. 

It’s this collaborative model — bringing together business and industry, higher education, and government to create regional opportunities — that is the essence of the OMIC initiative, Moos said.

Kid coding

Alyson Vaerewyck of Scappoose High School was absorbed in coding during her internship.

About Alfredo V. Moreno

Alfredo joined PCC in September of 2018 as the community relations manager for the Rock Creek Campus in Washington County. Born in the border city of El Paso, Texas, Alfredo grew up in the timber town of Roseburg in Southern Oregon before e... more »

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