New training center a message to Boeing

EVERETT — Snohomish County teamed up with an aerospace group and two community colleges Thursday in an effort to keep the Boeing Co. and related employers in Washington state.

During a week in which Boeing announced it had purchased a South Carolina factory from a 787 partner, the team announced plans for an aerospace training institute with facilities at Snohomish County’s Paine Field Airport and at Spokane International Airport.

“This creates new and needed opportunities for our aerospace workers to keep their skill sets well ahead of our competition,” said Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.

Reardon said the county is offering a two-year lease on a 30,000-square-foot building on 2.5 acres at the airport to the Aerospace Futures Alliance, which would operate it with Edmonds Community College.

How the operation will be financed and what it will teach has yet to be determined, but Reardon and others said the region can’t wait to get started.

“We needed to get moving,” said state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett. “Other states are stepping up much more quickly than we are.”

The proposal mirrors one Sells attempted to push through this legislative session. The idea passed the House, but it failed in the Senate and lacked support from Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Gregoire said there were already enough training programs. She created a state aerospace council to coordinate training at community and technical colleges as well as four-year universities.

The Paine Field building, which the alliance would renovate in lieu of paying rent, is expected to open this fall for at least some classes. Reardon said companies will pay for training and there may also be federal funds available.

Jerrilee Mosier, vice president for work-force development and training at EdCC, which already offers programs in using advanced aerospace materials, said she sees the center offering different types of programs.

“I see at least some of the classes as more condensed and short term than the traditional college training,” she said. “I see more summer programs in a vibrant area where high school students can get some hands-on experience.”

Sells said he wants to see much more than technical training. “It’s important to see things like management skills and other development programs geared toward (the industry),” he said.

Sue Ambler of the county’s workforce development council said a statewide effort is important. “Aerospace training has been so fragmented that it really needed to be coordinated in this state,” she said.

Mike Mires, the dean of instruction for Spokane Community College, said the statewide initiative “will ensure that we reach the highest number of interested and qualified prospects.”

Linda Lanham, director of the alliance, agreed. “We have to start now because we’re already competing with five other states that have such training facilities,” she said. “We’re losing our edge for skilled aerospace workers.”

Boeing’s $580 million purchase of the former Vought Aircraft Industries factory in Charleston that was making and assembling the barrellike sections of the 787 fuselage has revived concerns that it will move 787 production outside Everett.

“It is clear that Washington state is in a competition with other states such as South Carolina for the second line of the 787 and perhaps the future of commercial aerospace,” Reardon said.

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