Pearls Update, The Port of Toledo and OCCC Welding Program

The OCCC Welding Program was spotlighted at last year’s Pearls of Wisdom fundraising event.  We thought you might enjoy an update.  Lorna Davis, Port Manager, graciously carved some time from her exceedingly busy schedule to talk with us about the Port of Toledo and the Welding Program.

My parents and I immigrated directly to Tillamook from the U.K., when I was about five years old.  We were living in Sheffield when my sister met someone from Tillamook.  They fell in love so the whole family moved.

I started working at 15 years of age when I was in high school and then after, multiple jobs to make ends meet.  In 2001, I came to Lincoln County, later working as the Sales Director at Embarcadero in Newport.  From there, I worked for the Newport Chamber of Commerce as the Tourism Development Director.  After that, I served as the Chamber’s Executive Director for ten years.

COVID shook up the travel and leisure industry.  I had been working as the Global Sales Director for Europe and India at Travel Oregon when I learned that Bud Shoemake was about to retire from the Port. I applied for the position and got it!

The Port of Toledo is so much more than a port.  We have an industrial park, the Port Complex; other industrial properties, a Marina; and several public spaces including the Waterfront Park, the Paddle Park on the Bay Road, and a public boat launch. Three of our properties have kayak launches.

A couple of years ago, Bud, Majalise Tolan with the Lincoln County School District and Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge at OCCC discussed the workforce needs of the community and how to address them.  The Port’s 2018 Strategic Business Plan identified the need for the Port to develop vocational training programs in order to increase the skilled workforce needed at the Shipyard. With a MARAD grant and with the support of local businesses, US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Congressman Kurt Schrader and Representatives David Gomberg and Arnie Roblan, the Welding Program opened in January of 2020.

The craft of welding is a sought-after trade. The average age of a welder in the U.S. is 55+ years of age.  There is great demand for skilled tradesmen.  OCCC welding students learn the basics and some advance work.  At the end of the program, they are sufficiently skilled and ready for either continued schooling and/or a career that is transferrable.

The advantage of the OCCC Welding Program is that you can stay here in the community. For instance, the Port of Toledo currently has three employees who trained through the OCCC Welding Program.

This is an expensive program.  Materials and safety gear are costly.  Fortunately, there are donors who help support those who wish to pursue this field.  OCCC Foundation Board Member, Annette Mulee is one of those dedicated donors.  In her own words, Annette explained her passion.

“I was looking to fund a general scholarship at OCCC. “I was fortunate to have received a scholarship and a fellowship for my undergraduate and graduate study, and I wanted to pay it forward. President Ryslinge told me about the possibility of funding one of the first cohorts in the welding program. It does not qualify for financial aid, yet it would seem to lead to real jobs with decent pay relatively soon. That seemed to be the way to make the most difference for the money. Not only would the students get good jobs and the chance to improve their lives, but the local economy also would benefit. And I am delighted to have made a difference for those welding students,” explained Annette.

When you donate to the OCCC Foundation, you can see your money at work.  It stays right here in the community and benefits the students and all of Lincoln County.  The results are stellar.

Thank you, Lorna and Annette for making such a difference!