Aerospace workers talk training with Sen. Murray

The economic recession hit home for Ganine Agnew in 2008 when she was “downsized” from her job at a Kansas aviation company.

A man she knew was working for Aviation Technical Services, an aircraft maintenance and repair business near Paine Field in Everett. “Why don’t you come out here?” he said. “You have the skills.”

Agnew was hired in 2009. Shortly after joining the company, she participated in a program that allows employees to get training while working at their jobs.

“We did class on Monday and Tuesday through Thursday we had hands on work on the airplane,” Agnew said. Her training and skills have helped her advance in her job responsibilities and increase her pay about $7 an hour.

Agnew, 45, told her story of how she and other workers are getting training to advance their skills during a meeting Tuesday with Sen. Patty Murray and members of the Workforce Development Roundtable.

These leaders in local business, education and technical training programs work to help fill what Murray calls the work-force “skills gaps” faced by local companies.

“We have businesses that want to hire and want to grow and workers who want jobs and don’t have the right skills,” Murray said.

A variety of training programs, including the federal Workforce Investment Act, have helped increase workers’ technical skills.

The Workforce Development Roundtable isn’t limiting its efforts to developing the skills of current employees.

It’s been working with local schools districts to tell students why mastering classroom skills, such as math, can be vital to the professional and economic futures.

Some major projects, like Boeing’s military tanker contract, can continue for up to 20 years, said Sue Ambler, president and chief executive of the Workforce Development Council Snohomish County.

“If you’re in eighth grade, we can say there will be job for you,” she said.

Grace Holland, a staff member of the International Association of Machinists District 751, said the need for skilled workers who can build Boeing’s planes is only going to grow.

Half of its hourly workers will be eligible to retire in the next five years, she said.

The pay for these jobs range from $15 to $43 an hour, Holland said.

Students considering these jobs must not only master math, but be proficient at writing, communicating and on-the-job problem solving.

The union has spread the word at career fairs and other events, contacting more than 5,000 students in the Western Washington region in the past six months. Representatives have also made presentations to elementary, middle school and high school students about the skills they need to apply for apprenticeship and entry level jobs.

“These kids didn’t realize that these are potential jobs for them,” Holland said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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