As in many counties in Washington State, Clark County is already planning for a future where Baby Boomers punch the clock for the last time. Economic development professionals there estimate that more than 30,000 workers will need to be replaced in the next 10 years alone.

To bring new talent into the fold, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, Workforce Southwest Washington, the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative and others have launched a new initiative to draw high school graduates into manufacturing careers. The goal is to build awareness of manufacturing as a career option, create an industry-endorsed vetting process and address career advancement barriers for current workers. Skills taught include how to work in an electronic clean room, welding, machining, chemistry and computers.

There is a particularly large skill shortage in new manufacturing processes. While the demand for machinists and welders remain high, a lot of new manufacturing jobs involve automation and computer technology, which requires additional training and competencies. Jobs in the sector pay more than non-skilled positions, with a median wage of $26 an hour.

Students can learn about businesses in the area by visiting catalystwa.org. The site includes company descriptions, locations, career opportunities and more. The site always allows students to connect to internships, opportunities to do mock tours, sign up for informational interviews and participate in job shadowing.

The new partnership is an excellent example of how Washington companies, workforce organizations and economic development associations are joining forces to ensure the state’s legendary workforce continues to have the skills required to meet the needs of the future.

Read more about Clark County’s new training program, designed to draw youth into manufacturing careers.

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