COCC Manufacturing & Applied Technology Center Poised to Lead the Nation in STEM Skills Program

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Georgetown University’s Center on Education in the Workforce recently completed a report showing the number of jobs in Oregon that require science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM is expected to grow by 13 percent by 2018.

In 2008 there were 90,400 jobs requiring a level of STEM skills. By 2018 that number is expected to be north of 102,000. Almost all of the STEM jobs will require some postsecondary education. In fact it is estimated that 94 percent of them will require a college education. This is in comparison to job growth in the unskilled manual labor fields, which is expected to decline. What do these numbers mean for Central Oregon’s youth preparing themselves to roar into the job world? It means they had better start learning the skills that will make them valuable to the labor force.

“It is extremely important for us to hire those with college level STEM training,” said Steve Langenderfer, project engineer with Structus in Bend, manufacturers of innovative products for the building industry. “The manufacturing industry is constantly evolving, and hiring those with current skills is a must and the most cost effective for the company. Unskilled labor requires a lot of on the job training and is not the most efficient use of resources.”

Structus is just one example of the many companies who prefer to hire those with technical skills over those with limited education. This is no longer just a trend. It is becoming standard practice in the world of high tech manufacturing.

“Businesses are constantly moving toward higher efficiencies that include producing more, faster, with the same number of people. Technicians and engineers are the people responsible for that work. This describes a trend toward businesses hiring more technicians and engineers,” said Doug Wambaugh, vice president of engineering at Structus.

“When hiring, we often seek people who have complementary skills to our own. If someone has training or skills that can benefit our company, and we don’t yet possess, then that person will move to the top of the stack of applicants. And – those with more recent training often possess the most current technological understanding.”

Those young men and women living in the high desert and planning their future to include a job in the manufacturing or technology sector will soon have a golden opportunity preparing to excel in their chosen fields. Thanks to the voters who approved a bond measure, and the state government that provided matching funds, the construction of the new Manufacturing and Applied Technology Center on Redmond’s COCC campus is nearing completion, and will be receiving students by September 2014.

“One of my goals as governor has always been to make higher education available to every citizen. By 2025, we are committed to making college affordable and attainable to at least 80 percent of Oregon students, allowing them to receive a post-secondary education or degree,” said Governor John Kitzhaber. “This is referred to as the 40-40-20 Goal. I am committed to helping students in Oregon reach their full potential, by providing them with the tools they need for a successful career and a better quality of life. The COCC Manufacturing and Applied Technology Center (MATC) is an important step towards this goal. The Center helps to further my commitment to increase the access to college for all students in Oregon, particularly in the area of STEM skills.”

Designed by BBT Architects Inc., the new technology center features state-of-the-art design and functionality, creating an environment where students can excel, and offer up the best of Central Oregon youth to an ever changing hi-tech manufacturing industry. The contractor on the project is Kirby Nagelhout Construction with a completion date of July 2014.

“When COCC President Jim Middleton spoke to us about this project, it was important to him to have a facility that would catch the eye of those professionals who may be considering locating their operations in Central Oregon. It needed to stand out, and be better than other tech centers around the country,” said Donald Stevens, principal at BBT Architects. “We want executives visiting the facility to have confidence in the future workforce being trained there. We designed the entire facility around the needs of today and future needs. We designed several flexible laboratories that don’t yet have programs scheduled for their use. It was important for the facility to be ready to evolve with the tech industry.”

At 26,000 square feet, the Manufacturing Training Facility will be more than ready to create the employees of tomorrow for Central Oregon’s manufacturers. The MATC is a self-paced learning environment. Students will be able to come to the MATC during any times that the center is open. They will work at their own pace while staying in regular contact with instructors and facilitators. Using a checklist system, MATC students move step-by-step through their assignments that include reading, calculations and practical labs. Because of the self-based system, the MATC is able present a wide variety of topics every term as they work towards their certificates and degrees.

One key aspect of the program is in the use of E-Learning. About 70 percent of the first year curriculum and a number of second year courses use these internet based interactive teaching tools. E-learning gives students more schedule flexibility as class content can be viewed from home.

The education offered through the MATC provides not only technical proficiency, but also broad-based life skills as students work towards a certificate or degree. Learning self-discipline and personal work ethics skills allows them to move ahead in their career and succeed in today’s demanding job market.

“The need for technology skills in today’s manufacturing industry, presents COCC with a great opportunity. We can provide the skilled workforce our local manufacturers need for them to succeed and exceed in an ever changing marketplace” said Matt McCoy, vice president of admissions at COCC. “Through the Tech Center, COCC is poised to lead in the area of technology education, and meet the needs of today’s manufacturers, as well as tomorrow’s.”

Those needs are likely to increase in the very near future, as EDCO has released a report of pending commercial projects in Central Oregon. All of the projects combined have the potential to bring in over a hundred million in capital investments, and are projected to create in the neighborhood of 2,000 living wage jobs.

The Economic outlook for Central Oregon is looking bright and COCC’s Manufacturing and Applied Technology Center will no doubt play a crucial role in the manufacturing of tomorrow.

www.cocc.edu/manufacturing-technology.

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