Camp in Albany looks to train kids early on manufacturing skills

Camp in Albany aims to train students in manufacturing skills, prepare them for workforce

ALBANY, Ore. - Three years ago, the Albany area Chamber of Commerce realized that they had a problem, one that many cities across the country are facing right now.

There were not enough skilled workers to fill open jobs in manufacturing. Because of this, they came up with a solution.

They decided to get kids in the area started early, opening their eyes to a future that they otherwise may not have known, and teaching them the skills to take that path.

Loretta Newton-Mendenhall wants to be a welder.

"It's not just a job for guys to do," said Newton-Mendenhall. "I think girls can get into it too."

A few classrooms over, Megan Reese practices for her dream job; making airplanes.

In another room, Micah Matthews is looking for imperfections in equipment while keeping an open mind.

"You never know where you're gonna go, so it's always great to have options.

If these are today's middle schoolers, then the future is likely in good hands. However, it did not always look that way.

"There's just not a younger generation that's applying for these positions," said Josefine Fleetwood, the Workforce Development Director.

Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and Linn Benton Community College realized that there was a gap, where nobody was trained and interested in the rapidly growing field of manufacturing.

That is, until they started this camp three years ago in order to change that.

"We're giving them the opportunity to see some of the things that are available to them," said Dale Moon, the Associate Dean for Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation.

Luckily, the kids are taking to it.

"It's a great experience," said Matthews. "Something that you don't always get to do, some things that most people will never get to do."

There will be welders, rocket scientists and kids trained in a whole variety of manufacturing skills, ready to fill the void.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the last year, the U.S. added 285,000 jobs in manufacturing.

The camp organizers say that part of what they're teaching these kids is that they don't have to go to a four-year university to be successful. They can learn these skills young, head into the workforce early and still make a great living.

If you're interested in finding out more about the program, feel free to visit their website here.

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