Washington Aerospace Training Center expanding

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

EVERETT — Just two years after opening, Everett’s Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center celebrated growth last Thursday.

Gov. Chris Gregoire cut the ribbon on an expansion that will enable the center to accommodate nearly double the number of students learning skills to land jobs in factories and shops.

“We need the WATR Center to come back in two years and expand again,” Gregoire told about 75 local and state politicians, educators and community members.

Nearly 800 students have completed 12-week programs at the center’s Paine Field location since it opened in June 2010. Roughly 75 percent of those graduates have landed jobs in the industry.

“We’re getting students jobs. Jobs, jobs and more jobs,” said Jean Hernandez, president of Edmonds Community College, which oversees the center’s training program.

Demand for trained aerospace workers isn’t likely to stop soon with the Boeing Co. and suppliers speeding up jet production. Boeing hired roughly 10,000 new employees in Washington in 2011 and has added another 3,000 so far in 2012.

“We need the talent,” said Wayne Brown, a director for manufacturing and quality for Boeing. “We absolutely need the talent.”

Katharine Huey was in the center’s first graduating class, in 2010. The facility wasn’t completed when Huey began taking courses. But her instructors’ enthusiasm made up for it.

After working as a mechanic for about 18 months at Boeing, Huey since has begun helping with training at the jet maker.

“This training changed my life,” Huey said of the WATR center.

Besides offering both certificate programs and customized training for companies, the training center has hosted some short-term programs to encourage teenagers to pursue careers in aerospace.

Jordan Saunders participated in one of the center’s Cool Girls events, which brought 13- to 15-year old teenage girls from the Boys and Girls Club to the center.

The students worked with computer assisted design programs. They layered carbon fiber and resin to make composite trinket trays in a process similar to how composites are used in making airplanes.

“I learned airplanes are made out of fabric,” Saunders said. “That’s just awesome.”

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

Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center

The center is managed by Edmonds Community College at a building on the east side of Paine Field in Everett. New sections of each of the following 12-week programs start approximately every 30 days:

•Aerospace manufacturing core skills

Aerospace assembly mechanic

Aerospace electrical assembler

For more information, go to washingtonaerospace.com.