Opening Doors to Abundance – Manufacturing Opportunities for the Next Generation

Introducing new people to manufacturing

When Jesse Aaronson isn’t whitewater kayaking he’s responsible for overseeing the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program at Work Systems Inc. As a national and local subject matter expert, Jesse serves as the advanced manufacturing industry lead with 10 years of experience developing, implementing, and managing workforce development programs for both youth and adults.

Why do you feel Manufacturing Day is an important day to celebrate?

Manufacturing Day raises awareness of how important manufacturing is to the country and local economies.  Most young people have no idea about what’s happening in the warehouse they pass everyday on their way to school or the types of good paying jobs there are in manufacturing.  This day is for opening these doors and showing young people the abundance of career possibilities that are out there for them.

What has been the most rewarding part of being involved with Manufacturing Day?

We haven’t done the tours yet but I think it will be seeing the excitement and curiosity of students when they see the complexity and variety of what goes on in a manufacturing facility.  Company tours are one of my favorite parts of my job.  It’s like watching the “How it’s Made” show in person.

Who is your favorite Oregon ‘manufacturing hero’?

(Historic inventor, manufacturer, innovator)?  I’m sure there’s a lot of great Oregon “manufacturing hero’s” that I’m overlooking but I do like Tim Leatherman’s story and how he built an innovative product prototyped in his garage into an internationally recognized brand.  I also really like Leatherman’s commitment to keeping manufacturing in the US and Oregon.

What kinds of career opportunities exist in manufacturing?

Our in-house labor market economist just told me today there are 300 different occupation types employed in manufacturing from production workers (welders, machinists, painters, operators, etc.) to management to engineering to IT and Software.  In the Portland Metro Area alone there are over 87,000 people employed in manufacturing representing over 10% of private sector employment.  This means that on top of a wide variety of occupations there are MANY employment opportunities.

What do you think students considering a career in manufacturing might be surprised to learn?

The great thing about manufacturing is that many companies offer employee tuition assistance programs so there are frequently opportunities to earn while you learn.  64% of the manufacturing workforce has less than an associate’s degree with the majority of training provided by employers while On-the-Job.  There are opportunities to get an entry level job right out of high school and advance your career (and income) with a minimal education investment.

Do you think Oregonians understand the importance of manufacturing? Why or why not?

Unless you’ve worked in manufacturing, have a family member that does or work closely with the sector I think the answer is no.  I think people know manufacturing’s important but they don’t know how important it is in Oregon.  It represents 29.7% of Oregon’s Gross State Product!  The manufacturing sector is also primarily traded sector.  That means it brings more outside dollars into our local economy. It’s estimated that for every 1 traded sector manufacturing job in Oregon, 2.5 local-sector jobs are created.