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A look at Oregon's skilled trades jobs shows that a living wage and talent retention are both attainable.

Jobs in manufacturing need a hand bouncing back from COVID cutbacks — and supporting this sector could mean major growth for Oregon's economy and community.

A recent state report found that jobs in industries such as services as well as leisure and hospitality are expected to recover well and add the most jobs by 2030 compared to other sectors. Many of these jobs generally require a high school diploma or less, and are mostly jobs like service, fast food, retail sales and cashiers.

While Oregon projects to add a total of 317,600 jobs by 2030, the lion's share of 73,800 of those jobs will be in leisure and hospitality, while just 21,000 are expected to be added to the manufacturing sector.

The state economists tells us the hospitality sector jobs will return — possibly by 2022. But manufacturing jobs? Those need to be supported by government policy makers. Because increasing the number of jobs in that sector will benefit a wider array of Oregonians.

PMG PHOTO: STEPHANIE BASALYGA - Michell Perez stands outside the workshop area of Oregon Tradeswomen's location in Rockwood Rising, a mixed-use development under construction in Gresham. A study analyzed Monday at the Oregon Business Summit says it would be good state policy to pursue more manufacturing jobs in Oregon.The difference between manufacturing jobs and many other sectors is that so many manufacturing jobs do not require higher education, but wages tend to be higher, and the sector has a lower diversity gap.

According to the Department of Education, the average federal student loan debt is more than $37,000 per individual in 2021. While the national student loan debt surpasses $1.59 trillion for federal loans, there's also an additional $136.31 billion former students owe on private loans, for a total of $1.73 trillion in national student loan debt.

Student loans are the No. 2 form of debt in the United States, aside from mortgages, above cars and credit cards.

On the other hand, apprenticeships can be a talent development solution. Skilled trades in sectors like manufacturing offer apprenticeship programs, which are accessible career paths as an alternative to higher education.

Skilled trade apprenticeships are career pathways — as many new grads can attest to, having a degree doesn't always offer the necessary experience to land a job. Apprenticeship programs recruit, train and retain skilled workers for a particular firm or organization.

Contrary to academia's format, skilled trades apprenticeships in sectors like manufacturing pay workers to learn about their career, such as operations engineers and equipment operators. Construction truck drivers, allied trades, boilermakers, bricklayers, plumbers, roofers, sheet metal workers, painters, ironworkers, insulators, elevator constructors, electricians, construction laborers, carpenters and cement masons are further skilled trades jobs offering apprenticeship programs. These types of jobs need workers in Oregon, and supply crucial aspects to our community's infrastructure.

Business owners and employers in Oregon who offer apprenticeship programs will immediately see the benefits — especially those who have trouble hiring and retaining quality workers during the Great American Walkout.

Skilled trades apprenticeships vet employees while also teaching your company's culture and systems. Apprenticeships also can reduce turnover, improve loyalty and retain talent as workers move up the ranks. Retaining workers demonstrates investment in your community, showing that jobs at your company aren't going to disappear when life gets tough.

A recent study by ECONorthwest found that Oregon's 214,000 manufacturing jobs contributed $33 billion, or 13%, to the state's GDP in 2020. According to the study, the manufacturing sector is 42% more productive than non-manufacturing sectors, in terms of the ratio of jobs to GDP output.

This means the higher level of productivity supports higher wages in the sector, as well as future business investments. The study found median earnings of manufacturing workers are 17% higher than those in other industries.

Because of the wages and educational accessibility, the poverty rate of households with one full-time manufacturing worker is 3% lower than the poverty rate of other households, effectively lifting Oregonians out of poverty, the study found.

Ultimately, the report found if Oregonians increase manufacturing output by 10% over the next four years, it would support 66,000 new attainable, living-wage jobs with no student loan debt — and generate $800 million in revenue.

Oregon's manufacturing sector supports many other industries at a time when the supply chain is shaky, and the attainable living wages will only boost the demand for goods and services, uplifting our whole economy.


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