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On the Scene: Intel exec calls for ed investment

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On the Scene
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

By Emma Hall

Intel VP Renée James used the podium at today's Portland Business Alliance annual meeting to advocate for investment in education in order to compete globally for the need for skilled workers. Oregon is 49th among states for college enrollment.

Freshly returned from the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, James explained that Oregon is falling further behind in skilled-worker production internationally. "We're on our way to becoming a lifestyle state," James said. She referenced a popular Portlandia skit that declares Portland the place where young people come to retire.

"We have to connect the personality of Portland with the creation of new jobs," James said. "If we want Portland to be a place where people come to live, work, grow, and then retire."

Nearly 1,000 business and civic leaders gathered in the Portland Ballroom at the Oregon Convention Center over breakfast this morning for the annual meeting. PBA chair Roger Hinshaw, president of Bank of America, Oregon & SW Washington, explained that the meeting was to celebrate making private sector job creation the top priority in the region.

The PBA released the Regional Economic Report in December, which showed just how badly the shortage of jobs and lower wages affected families in the Portland-metro region. The report received a lot of attention for spelling out how dire the situation in Oregon really was, and this attention was exactly the intended effect. The next step is using the information gathered in the report to create jobs.

The PBA created ValueofJobs.com to focus on this goal, and is using radio ads and online videos to get their message heard. The video below was released today:

The Value of Jobs campaign calls for a quality education system, more land for industry, an efficient transportation system, and government partners to all work together to create jobs. It is this support of a quality education system that was stressed the most at the PBA meeting. In February, President Obama  wanted to visit a private company that was creating jobs, based on innovation and investing in education. That company turned out to be Intel.

Honored guests, from elected officials like Metro Council president Tom Hughes and the mayors of Beaverton, Hillsboro and Vancouver, to Rose Festival Court members were in attendance at the PBA annual meeting to hear from keynote speaker James. James is Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Software and Services Group at Intel.

"Intel is the anchor of Oregon's economy," said US Bank President Malia Wasson. Intel has 15,500 employees in Oregon, and recently announced plans to add 1,000 full-time employees. Although this is good news for employment in Oregon, there are some setbacks.

Those 1,000 added factory jobs? All will go to college graduates. Also, any jobs outside of the factory that Intel adds, such as engineering jobs, go to Masters and PhD graduates. The problem with that is that Oregon isn't producing enough skilled workers. So although Intel is creating jobs in Oregon, they are continually having to draw workers from out of state. With their last expansion, only 30% of the new workers came from Oregon Universities.

"Everything is changing right now in technology," James said. The industry calls it "getting smarter." Everything from mobile phones to televisions now come equipped with computer chips, and a smarter and more skilled workforce is needed to create these smarter devices. "And education is the foundation of a skilled workforce," James said.

Emma Hall is web editor for Oregon Business.

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