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Andrew Lattanner begins work with stakeholders on Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center project

Two months into his role at Portland Community College, Andrew Lattanner is busily preparing for the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center's Manufacturing Day.

Manufacturing Day "is a way to reach this community and in particular, let young people know the opportunities that are here," Lattanner said.

Andrew Lattanner is currently based out of the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Research & Development facility in Scappoose. At Manufacturing Day, OMIC R&D, the community college and industry partners will welcome local students, community members and elected officials to visit the Scappoose facility.

"That's been a great introduction for me because one, it speaks to the core of what the OMIC initiative is about, and it brings together all of the smart people that are working on this issue," Lattanner said.

Lattanner started as director of PCC's future training facility in mid-July, beginning his first position in higher education. Before that, he spent more than a decade working in Washington, D.C., most recently as deputy chief of staff for Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, who lost his reelection bid in 2018.

During his 12 years in Washington, Lattanner became interested "in the intersection between the public and private sector and where they could work together to solve problems."

"The skills gap is a huge problem across the country and it's certainly something that we're focused on here in Oregon," Lattanner said.

To Lattanner, the dilemma in manufacturing is twofold: first, ensuring there are trained, skilled workers to fill the positions open today, and second, looking toward the future, with changing technologies, and how to produce a workforce that will keep Oregon manufacturers competitive.

"Across the country, people are having these types of conversations, and I think we're thinking creatively about how you can address some of these issues. What's really neat about the situation here in Oregon and the OMIC concept is that you have all of the players at the table: you've got industry, you've got academic partners, you've got the state," Lattanner said.

"You make progress when you have all of the right people at the table; the people that are on the front lines, as well as the people that are looking at the big picture," he added.

With local school districts also in the fold, Lattanner is also working to strengthen partnerships with K-12 education.

That excitement about bringing together stakeholders was a priority for Craig Campbell, executive director of OMIC R&D. Campbell was on a panel that helped select Lattanner.

"I was looking for somebody who would be able to be a good community builder, who would be able to work with disparate groups," Campbell said.

The training facility, once built, will host apprenticeship programs in manufacturing. The training facility hit a roadblock last month when the sale of the 17-acre lot where the facility would be located fell through, forcing the college to begin searching for a different property.

Early last year, PCC formed a Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee with industry representatives to work with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries to map out the apprenticeship programs.

A machining program, two computer numerically controlled operating programs, and an industrial fabrication program have been approved by the state, while a mechatronics program is still in development, Lattanner explained.

The apprenticeship structure would allow students to begin courses at PCC and gradually spend less time in the classroom and more time in a paid position in the industry.

Although the curriculum has been developed, much of the program planning is yet undefined.

The Oregon Manufacturing Extension Project is a nonprofit that works to assist smaller manufacturers and is working with OMIC R&D and PCC. Larger manufacturers and unions often have their own apprenticeship programs, but an apprentice's need for a living wage may be at odds with the limited capacities of those smaller manufacturers.

"That's something that we're going to be thinking a lot about," Lattanner said. "You make progress when you have all of the right people at the table, the people that are on the front lines, as well as the people that are looking at the big picture. So it's been my experience that in Washington, when we had some of the most meaningful success, it started with bringing the right people to the table, and that's something that really excites me about this initiative."

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