Nearly a quarter of the region’s manufacturing workforce is 55 or older and could retire in the next decade. Despite the family-wage jobs and career advancement opportunities, fewer young people are entering manufacturing than ever before. These sobering realities are prompting manufacturers to look at new ways to attract young adults to their workplaces. Enter Manufacturing Day.

Manufacturing Day began in 2012 by a group of businesses and manufacturing associations interested in changing the public perception of the industry. The event has since expanded internationally and recently became Manufacturing Month.

Every October, manufacturers and supporting organizations all over the world put on events for their communities to highlight the great work happening on manufacturing floors. Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) has been hosting Manufacturing Day events since 2015. Each year we are excited to bring young adults into local businesses to explore what manufacturing really looks like.

This year, WSW held events in both Clark and Cowlitz counties. In Cowlitz, students from Kelso High School toured the Port of Longview to hear about what was happening in manufacturing nearby and then crossed the river to visit the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center in Scappoose, where students learned about aerospace technology and robotics.

In Clark County, students from three Evergreen School District high schools visited the Port of Vancouver. They heard from leaders at Wickum Weld and Sigma DG about what it is like to work with aluminum and fiberglass, respectively, and then took a tour of the Port that highlighted manufacturers located at the Port and learned how manufacturing impacts the City of Vancouver and Clark County.

As the manufacturing industry grows and changes, WSW knows it is important to introduce people to opportunities in the industry. Manufacturing isn’t the same industry it once was, and often employees are working in cleanrooms or with robotics. Jobs in the industry will continue to change as technology changes, and more engineers and designers will be needed.

If you’re a manufacturing company interested in sharing what you do, we encourage you to reach out to our education systems and make time to connect with students still in school. You can also connect with job seekers at Next and WorkSource by contacting WSW’s Senior Project Manager for Manufacturing, Alyssa Joyner at ajoyner@workforcesw.org.

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