Aerospace students wait for loan funds

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

Fifty-one students have received low-interest student loans to pay for short-term aerospace job training in Washington, but plenty more on a waiting list for funding.

“The demand is definitely there,” Julie Japhet, associate director for student financial assistance with the state Higher Education Committee Board, told legislators on Friday.

Last year, the Legislature approved $250,000 to provide loans, in the fiscal budget ending June 30, for students interested in aerospace training at the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center at Paine Field in Everett. The first students who received those loans began training on Jan. 3, Japhet told the House Committee on Labor and Workforce Development during a hearing webcast Friday.

The Legislature already has approved $1.25 million more for aerospace training loans beginning July 1. That should put another 250 students through training. Tuition costs $4,800 per student. The program doesn’t qualify for federal student loan funding. But veterans can use GI Bill funding to take courses.

The 12-week training program also now is being offered in Yakima, Spokane and Renton.

Legislation was introduced this week to allow students attending training in Renton to be able to apply for student loans beginning in July. The training program wasn’t available in Renton when lawmakers approved the student-loan program last year.

So far, roughly 625 students have completed the aerospace training program, said Larry Cluphf, director of the training center in Everett. Of the graduates, 571 have applied for work in the aerospace field. About 477 students have been interviewed for positions, and 365 have been offered jobs.

It typically takes graduates about three months after completing the program to apply for jobs and be hired, Cluphf said.

“The great thing about this program is that it gets people in the door,” Cluphf said.

The training center is working with the Boeing Co. to understand the company’s employment needs. According to Boeing’s latest estimate, the jetmaker will need to hire about 2,000 production workers this year, Cluphf said. But the region’s 650 other aerospace companies also are hiring in response to increased production at Boeing and rival Airbus.

“Boeing is hiring about 95 percent of the graduates out of the (Everett training) center,” Cluphf said. “The suppliers are picking up the other graduates.”

Of the 121 people who applied for the 51 student loans that were available through the state, 55 percent are 35 years old or younger, which is important considering the aerospace industry’s aging workforce, Cluphf said.

For more on the training center and the student loan program, go to washingtonaerospace.com.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or mdunlop@heraldnet.com.