For Fernando Torres, the vice president of operations at thermoplastics manufacturer Greene Tweed, the issue of immigration is personal. In 1996, at the age of 16, Torres immigrated to the United States. He was undocumented for a time, and he was forced to figure out how to stay afloat.
His story: Alone, without stable residency and barely speaking the language, Torres had a harrowing start in the U.S. But he worked his way through community college, where he excelled in math courses even though he wasn’t yet fluent in English. Torres attributes his love for math and science to his grandfather, who he says is the smartest man he’s ever met.
- “I had a difficult situation at the age of 16 in a new country without knowing the culture or the language, asking, what am I going to do?” said Torres. “Living in this country, it’s the country of opportunities, so I had to find ways to make it work and pursue the American dream.”
- “But, as an undocumented person, the jobs available were not pretty. Whether I was washing dishes at a seafood restaurant or cutting the lawns in Arizona in the middle of the 120-degree- weather summers, I just had to find a way to survive.”
Entering the industry: After community college, Torres was accepted into Arizona State University’s program for aerospace engineering—and eventually, he found a place in the commercial sector at Greene Tweed. Today, he’s a U.S. citizen, and he’s just as passionate as ever about the value of immigration.
Immigration and manufacturing meet: Torres has seen the skills gap in manufacturing firsthand, and he knows how difficult it is to fill critical jobs. That’s one reason why immigration is so important to the manufacturing industry, he pointed out.
- “There is a shortage of people,” said Torres. “Skilled laborers are very difficult to find in our country, and retirements are outpacing anyone that’s coming in. There’s not enough people to run our factories—and if we want the economy to grow, we need people to grow it.”
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