In Manufacturing, Youth

With nearly 100,000 jobs and a payroll of $10.1 billion, the Advanced Manufacturing sector accounts for eight percent of the Portland-Southwest Washington region’s private sector employment and 11 percent of payroll.

Advanced Manufacturing in the greater Portland-Southwest Washington region is comprised of several high-paying industries. The jobs being added in the manufacturing industry are high wage, averaging nearly $32 per hour. They also pay better than their national counterparts, about 124 percent of the national average for the industry. The high demand and high wages for advanced manufacturing jobs makes it an attractive industry for young adults seeking quality employment.

During Manufacturing month in October, Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) brought awareness to the quality careers the manufacturing industry can offer for young adults in the region. The events held by WSW aimed to make manufacturing a career of choice for the emerging workforce, in accordance with the Regional Manufacturing Workforce Plan. Where attracting young adults is one of three key goals manufacturing leaders have set for their industry.

Manufacturing Day, which brought together teachers from Kelso, Longview, Woodland and Wahkiakum, gave educators the opportunity to learn about careers in the manufacturing field and the skills students should be equipped with to successfully join the workforce.

“There are high quality jobs in our region and part of our goal is to help promote those local companies. Bringing in youth and educators helps paint the picture of opportunities for quality employment with local businesses. This also helps start the conversation in the schools at earlier ages about what a quality job is and what job seekers should look for,” said Alyssa Joyner, Senior Project Manager for Manufacturing at Workforce Southwest Washington. “Engaging with young adults from different types of backgrounds and interests helps in diversifying local talent. Providing experiences for students who may have never thought they would or could thrive in the manufacturing industry.”

The teachers met at the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce to learn about the workforce development initiatives that WSW is doing across Southwest Washington. The group then traveled to North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), where WSW board member Corey Giles met with them for a facility tour.

NORPAC is an independent paper company based in Longview, Washington that has been in operation since 1979. It delivers a broad range of high-quality papers to customers across the United States and around the world. With approximately 450 employees, NORPAC produces lightweight recycled packaging and graphic papers on three sophisticated paper machines supported by recycled fiber plants and thermo-mechanical pulping operations.

Giles started at NORPAC in 1996 as a Process Operator. Since then, he has worked his way up in the company to his current position as Converting/Warehouse Production Manager. During the tour, Giles led teachers around the production line, warehouse and NORPAC grounds. They learned about the working conditions, shifts, benefits and the breadth of job positions at NORPAC so they can share the information with their students.

Steve Mahitka, who teaches welding and metal art for Kelso School District said of the NORPAC tour that his students “are interested as this fits with our welding program at Kelso. Some are looking to become millwrights and others see opportunity in this field down the road.”

After the tour, the educators met with Joyner to discuss how the information from the tour can be applied in their classrooms. Teachers shared how the subjects and skills they teach provide a foundation for students to launch into careers at local manufacturing companies like NORPAC.

WSW plans to continue the Manufacturing Day tours, expanding the depth of knowledge around available opportunities for young adults in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties. WSW is also working with a RealWear headset to livestream the processes and duties of manufacturing workers into classrooms. The headset gives the worker the ability to show their processes and answer any questions students may have in real time. This project will further students’ knowledge of potential career opportunities.

Manufacturing businesses interested in working with Workforce Southwest Washington and learning about opportunities to connect with young adults can contact Alyssa Joyner at or 360.567.1076.

Individuals interested in jobs in the manufacturing industry should get in contact with WorkSource at 360.577.2250 in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties and 360.735.5000 in Clark County.

Youth interested in exploring career and educational options can contact Next in Clark County at 360.207.2628 or admin@nextsuccess or at 360.207.2628 or admin@nextsuccess in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

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