2:20 p.m. PDT March 17, 2016
Most students present their school projects to a classroom of 30 or so peers.
But for eight students from the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) of Salem-Keizer, their classroom Monday was a ballroom of hundreds of Oregon’s professional manufacturers.
The team of young manufacturers represented McNary, North, West, and South Salem high schools, and they presented at the Oregon Manufacturers’ Summit at the Salem Convention Center. The local students were Nelson Mueller, 17, Gerardo Zavalsa-Quezada, 17, Nick Hasty, 16, Connor Suderman, 17, Francely Cuevas, 17, Cameron Kyllingmark, 18, Michael Livingston, 17, and Franklin Blalock, 18.
The 2016 summit, themed “Making Great Workplaces,” was designed by the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and addressed ways for manufacturers to find, grow and retain skilled employees for manufacturing jobs.
“Our annual summit serves as a platform for Oregon manufacturing companies to address industry needs, growth and changes for manufacturing in our state,” Chris Scherer, president of the partnership, said in a prepared statement. “We designed the 2016 event around ‘making great workplaces.’ Finding, growing and retaining talent has emerged as the primary challenge of the 21st century.”
Oregon’s manufacturing sector, according to a report released by the partnership, added 3,700 jobs, with average salaries for manufacturing positions rising to $64,004, in 2014. The report was based on results from a survey administered and assessed by the partnership between October and December of 2015.
CTEC is located in Salem on Portland Road and works with nearly 80 students.
The students representing CTEC on Monday knew the skills they learned in the center’s classrooms would help them prepare for many of those positions.
A few of the students, including Suderman and Zavalsa-Quezada, said they plan to pursue engineering.
“Doing anything for eight hours a day is hard,” Blalock said. “But if you enjoy it, it makes it easier.”
The students presented four of their welding projects, all of which will be used at the center or in the district for years to come.
Their projects included two carts that aid in their internal process, a down-draft table that helps remove fumes as they weld, and an additional cart to carry outdoor fences, made for local high schools.
After they presented, the students got to speak with summit participants one-on-one during the networking portion of the event.
The students said they hoped people at the summit became interested in the center and saw the value of what the students are doing.
They said they have become advanced over the last year.
Zavalsa-Quezeda said they use some machines now as easily as they use a toothbrush.
They have also learned a lot about working in the field, aside from technical skills.
Cuevas said it was important she learned to be confident at the center, even though she is one of only a few girls there.
“It was intimidating at first, being one of only five girls in the program,” Cuevas said. “But now we say, ‘If you weld like a girl, you’re probably doing something right.'”
John Honey, principal of the center, said the students continue to surpass expectations.
“All these people (at the summit) are looking for entry-level employees,” Honey said. “All they have to do is go to 3501 Portland Rd NE in Salem.”