How a carbon-fiber key chain could lead to building a 787

EVERETT — With an aging aerospace workforce, local industry leaders are looking for ways to recruit younger workers.

In some cases, that means reaching out to students in middle and high schools.

Next month, six local teenage girls will attend a three-day workshop at the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center in Everett.

“We’re really trying to get young students interested in aerospace,” said Cyndi Schaeffer, executive director for Edmonds Community College’s Business Training Center.

The college oversees the training center, which was established by the Aerospace Futures Alliance and Snohomish County. Linda Lanham, executive director for Aerospace Futures Alliance, said efforts like this are “crucial to the survival of the aerospace industry.”

In Washington, nearly 10,000 machinists who build Boeing Co. jets are expected to retire within the next five to seven years, according to the Machinists union. The company and industry leaders are looking for ways to establish a steady base of skilled workers to replace those who retire. Various efforts have been launched with schools, community colleges and training centers.

Schaeffer said the training center wanted to work with students in the 13- to 15-year-old range because “they haven’t made their decisions yet as far their careers.”

On the first visit, the teenagers will make composite trinket trays, which can be used to hold jewelry, hair accessories and other items. They’ll learn how to layer carbon fiber and resin to make the tray, similar to how carbon fiber is used in the aerospace industry on planes such as the Boeing 787.

On another visit to the training center, the girls will use a computer-assisted-design program to design key chains. They’ll also take part in a welding project.

Marci Volmer, area director for the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County, hasn’t had trouble finding girls interested in participating in the program.

“It’s a good opportunity to learn about something they could do as a career,” Volmer said.

Volmer and Schaeffer will see how this first group does when the girls come for training in late November. If all goes well, they’re hopeful the program will continue and perhaps expand.

There’s a misnomer that aerospace is “guys’ work,” Lanham said. But the aerospace industry has plenty of work that appeals to women.

“We have to get students involved in aerospace,” she said.

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