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SOREDI begins survey to gauge training needs

The breadth of manufacturing in the Rogue Valley is impressive, the depth not so much.

The capabilities of the 441 manufacturers in Jackson and Josephine counties is extensive. The overall production is underwhelming, however, because two-thirds of those firms have nine or fewer employees. Growth is often stymied for the want of certified or trained employees with the needed skills.

In hopes of addressing the glaring need for skilled labor, Rogue Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a local business consortium, is collaborating with the Rogue Workforce Partnership and Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., to discover the most desirable training and certifications for the area.

SOREDI has emailed a 10-minute, 10-question online survey to manufacturers and posted the survey online at http://bit.ly/RAMP_Survey in order to reach as many firms as possible. The survey ends Jan. 15.

With growing scholastic emphasis on technical career education, the timing is right, said Aurora King, business and innovation director for the Rogue Workforce Partnership.

"This will help us identify specific and unique needs for our industries here in Jackson and Josephine counties," she said.

The manufacturers' consortium met monthly for the past year to develop pathways for high school graduates to obtain certification and training needed within two years. That becomes more important as retirement and other transitions dip into a relatively small talent pool.

"They recognize the need to re-image what manufacturing is today," said Rogue Workforce Partnership Executive Director Jim Fong. "Manufacturing isn't something that's necessarily dirty and smelly. We have some of those jobs, but most of it is automated. The technology involves robotics and programming. We're trying to fill the need for companies seeing a gap."

Manufacturing workforce consultant Audrey Theis helped Rogue Advanced Manufacturing Partnership develop the survey with the goal of preparing skilled workers for the region's advanced manufacturers.

Part of our challenge is that we don't have a critical-mass population," said SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla. "We don't have a lot of large companies to lure people here. Job seekers are thinking, if I relocate and this doesn't work out, where am I going to go?"

History has shown they often end up in Portland, the Puget Sound area or Bay Area.

"What we have is a lot of small companies with small employment," she said. "The ultimate purpose of the survey is to find out where we can aggregate skills training. We want to find out where the commonalities are so we can put the right kind of certificate and other training programs in place."

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31