Three recreational vehicle manufacturers based in Oregon’s Lane County have entered into a consortium to develop skilled workers to design, build and service motorhomes that can cost $1 million or more, according to the Register Guard, Junction City.
With some seed money from the state and some help from Lane Community College and the Lane Workforce Partnership, Country Coach Inc., Marathon Coach Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. banded together to create the RV Consortium, a regional work force training program.
The idea is to make Lane County a “center of excellence” for RV manufacturing and an RV training hub for the state, officials say.
This week, executives from the coach companies gathered at the Country Coach headquarters in Junction City and met with Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who last fall awarded a two-year, $525,000 grant to develop the consortium.
“The RV Consortium is a great example of how public policy and ingenious business leaders can stimulate job growth in Oregon,” Kulongoski said.
The RV industry employs more than 4,500 workers in Lane County, a number projected to increase by 19% over the next 10 years. It rates second to Elkhart, Ind., in its concentration of RV makers. The industry is also one of the largest employers in Lane County, second only to wood products.
“These are good jobs, the kind of jobs we need in Oregon, but we need to work to keep them in Oregon,” Kulongoski said.
Only 28% of adults in Oregon have bachelor’s degrees or higher, he said, and it’s important to create good jobs – and training opportunities – for young people who don’t attend college.
Country Coach has just completed one of the consortium’s first initiatives: a seven-week leadership training course for 25 employees. The same training is now being offered at Monaco Coach.
Training is scheduled for 1,900 employees in a variety of areas. For example, the consortium plans to conduct a joint training program on leather and vinyl repair, said Dan Oatman, consortium coordinator.
Another program will cover integrated audiovisual systems – today’s RVs often have flat-screen TVs, satellite dishes and sophisticated sound systems. Diversity training also is planned.
Each company has proprietary information they can’t share, but they can share information about certain common skills and jobs, Country Coach spokesman Matt Howard said.
The companies also are reaching out to high school and college students. They’ve distributed about 1,000 copies of a DVD highlighting the different jobs and careers in the industry, and they shared a common booth at last month’s Career Fair for high school seniors.