Posted at 12:56 PM
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker celebrated Manufacturing Day, a growing grassroots movement started by the Department of Commerce to engage students and inform educators about the career potential that exists in modern manufacturing.
Secretary Pritzker participated in two Manufacturing Day events this year in Portland, Oregon to highlight the exciting job opportunities that exist in the sector and to help combat the misperception that manufacturing takes place in outdated factories filled with line jobs. In reality, manufacturing is an innovative and inventive sector, in which workers are developing and using the latest technologies to make cutting-edge products.
On Thursday, Secretary Pritzker attended a Makers Gone Pro event, at which she had the opportunity to moderate a panel with recent Oregon high school graduates who are pursuing technical careers. One of the students, Lauren Bales, whose aerospace coursework inspired her to apply to every Boeing internship she could find, now works at the airplane manufacturer. Lauren helps builds the aircrafts of the future — planes that will deliver travelers to destinations much faster while using less energy. Similarly, Zac Clayville worked with his high school teachers to join an organization that led him to his career at Vigor, a leading shipbuilder in the Pacific Northwest. Today Zac repairs manufacturing tools and equipment that the entire company relies upon. These stories demonstrate the diverse paths that can lead to work in manufacturing.
After the panel, Secretary Pritzker toured the Makers Gone Pro exhibit where she, students and community members had an opportunity to learn about the world of making things, and how these activities relate to the Portland region’s robust manufacturing sector. During her tour, Secretary Pritzker visited KCR Manufacturing’s booth, where she observed a display of the company’s wildland firefighting equipment and job shop products. She also went to Microchip Technology’s booth, which had several robots on display. The EggBot, a robot that writes on round surfaces, and the WaterColorBot, a painting robot, were among those she saw.
Secretary Pritzker also stopped by PDX Makers’ booth. The booth had several hands-on activities on display. Visitors could build an LED blinking circuit on a breadboard, add components to a pre-programmed micro-computer, and test a musical instrument that uses a small laser to generate notes.
On Friday, Secretary Pritzker joined students at a visit to Lam Research, which is the world’s second largest semiconductor equipment manufacturer. Lam’s wafer fabrication equipment helps customers achieve device features that are 1,000 times smaller than a grain of sand, resulting in smaller, faster, more powerful, and more power-efficient chips.
During the event Secretary Pritzker gave remarks acknowledging that a pressing issue facing the manufacturing industry is the skills gap. The Secretary explained that in the next decade there will be an estimated 30,000 job openings in manufacturing in Oregon. By 2024, America's economy will need to fill 2.2 million openings for production workers; half-a-million openings for engineers; and an untold number of openings for jobs in new, emerging occupations. Developing a skilled workforce demands collaboration between government, businesses, educational institutions, and non-profits.
Secretary Pritzker emphasized that even through recessions and competition from abroad, manufacturing remains one of America’s greatest success stories. She encouraged the students to pursue careers in high-wage, high-demand fields like industrial engineering, digital automation, machining, and computer programming to sustain our dynamic, growing economy for years to come.