Governor Brown dedicates $300 million for hands-on tech programs in Oregon schools

Booming tech industry in Eugene looking for more qualified local employees (SBG).

EUGENE, Ore. - The tech industry is booming, jobs are opening up left and right, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown wants to make sure that Oregonians are qualified to fill them.

In her State of the State address, Governor Brown announced a renewed focus on career technical education to get students prepared for jobs in the tech industry. Brown is dedicating $300 million to hands-on learning in the next state budget.

The Chief Operating Officer of Eugene-based company 'Arcimoto' says that would be money well spent. He says that Oregon needs more specialized, highly-skilled workers to meet the demands of growing companies. Otherwise, they're forced to look out of state.

For Arcimoto, their main export is FUV's, also known as 'Fun Utility Vehicles.'

To get these cars moving requires engineers, programmers, manufacturers and other highly skilled employees like Alex Nordenson, who runs the metal laser cutter.

Nordenson is one of 40 employees, but Arcimoto is looking to potentially hire 200 more in the next two years. Business is taking off, and they just got started on a new factory. The problem is finding enough people with the right skills.

"Eugene is getting pretty skinny when it comes to the number of people available for the jobs that are coming in," said Terry Becker, the Chief Operating Officer for Arcimoto.

Becker says that they already have to look elsewhere to fill specialized positions, and that to get more local employees, high schools need to prepare students for jobs in tech manufacturing.

"Either more training in high school so that they can go directly into the workforce, or they are well prepared to go into a college curriculum," said Becker.

Nordenson went to South Eugene High School, and he says that he wishes he'd had these opportunities there.

"You have to take electives, and I took band, which I enjoyed," said Nordenson. "But I would have much preferred to spend time doing woodworking or autoshop or something like that."

He eventually found his way to this job, but the hope is that more people can get exposed at a young age to be part of these growing companies.

Arcimoto partners with Oregon Universities and gets a lot of interns and employees through those programs. But as far as high school goes, Governor Brown says he goal is to have every district offer hands on learning for every student.

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