"This is exactly the kind of response industry, students and taxpayers need from our community and technical colleges," said Mary Kaye Bredeson, director for the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing based at Everett Community College.
Last year, a consortium of colleges won a $20 million federal grant for workforce training. The group, Air Washington, consists of 11 community and technical colleges across the state.
Earlier this month, the group touted initial progress while at an international aerospace and defense suppliers summit in Seattle.
The colleges already are offering a two-quarter certificate in computer-numeric controlled machining. The course is designed to meet the aerospace industry's needs and to move well-trained workers into higher-paying jobs.
All 11 colleges are designing courses based on one developed by Shoreline Community College instructor Keith Smith, who worked with industry representatives and an advisory council in creating the course content. Students enrolled in the course participate in internships with local companies, enabling them to apply their skills.
The other 10 schools are Columbia Basin, Everett, Green River, Olympic, South Puget Sound and Yakima Valley community colleges along with Bates Technical College, Bellingham Technical College, Renton Technical College and Lake Washington Institute of Technology.
"This is the first time we have a group of community and technical colleges all teaching the same curriculum, providing skills that are closely tied to employers' needs and offering a nationally recognized certification," Bredeson said.
Programs like this address a deficiency in state workforce training that was flagged in a report published earlier this year. The report was completed in late 2011 by the state Higher Education Coordinating Board, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. The study highlights a growing demand for "mid-level" workers who complete a one- to two-year college degree or a vocational program.
Jobs for those mid-level workers will be in high demand, especially in the manufacturing, installation and repair and maintenance fields. From 2014 to 2019, the report projects, there will be a shortfall of about 1,100 trained manufacturing workers annually and an almost 1,800 annual shortfall in workers trained in various installation, maintenance and repair occupations.
Washington isn't alone in seeing a shortage of skilled manufacturing workers. More than 80 percent of manufacturers report not finding people to fill skilled production jobs, according to recent study by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte. As a result, there are as many as 600,000 manufacturing jobs open now nationwide, the report says.
The state's "analysis is a great homing device to make sure our training and resources are targeted exactly where students and employers need them," Charlie Earl, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, said when the study was released earlier this year.
When the state has focused efforts on addressing a specific worker shortage in the past, it has done so with success, according to the report. Washington beefed up nursing education programs in recent years to meet a lack of workers in the field. The number of nursing graduates with associate or bachelor's degrees has increased by 68 percent in recent years.
Washington education professionals hope to have similar success in addressing a shortage of trained aerospace workers.
Everett Community College, which is one of the 11 participating in the manufacturing course offering, is taking its own steps to ensure it meets the demands of the aerospace industry.
The community college created the Aerospace Solutions Group to be more responsive to one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Snohomish County economy. The new division will connect regional aerospace and manufacturing companies with workforce development and training solutions provided by the college.
"We will grow educational offerings to meet employer needs, develop more productive partnerships with industry and create seamless educational pathways that lead to employment for our students," David Beyer, president of the college, said when announcing the solutions group last month.
Everett Community College already has an Aviation Maintenance Technician School and offers programs in welding, machining and composites. Its Corporate & Continuing Education Center also offers courses for aerospace professions. The college recently announced several new short-term certificates in development, including precision machining, composites, fiber optics and quality assurance.
In the past six months, EvCC was awarded nearly $4 million dollars in grants to support aerospace and advanced manufacturing training.
"EvCC offers the most comprehensive selection of continuing education courses north of Bellevue and is the largest provider of contract training for the aerospace industry in Washington state," said John Bonner, who leads the EvCC Aerospace Solutions Group.
For information on EvCC's Aerospace Solutions Group, visit www.everettcc.edu/aerospace.
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