Boeing grant supports internships for low-income students

EVERETT — Everett Community College students studying how to operate and maintain increasingly automated and robotic factories could soon get workplace experience before graduating.

College and other state officials are meeting with companies around the state to set up a paid-internship program.

In July, the state’s Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing, which supports workforce training programs, received a $4 million taxpayer-funded grant from the federal Department of Labor to create paid internships for low-income students learning how to keep increasingly complex and automated factories running.

The Boeing Co. has chipped in, too. It gave a $66,000 grant to cover some of the program’s set-up costs. The Center of Excellence announced the contribution Monday, but declined to say exactly how much the airplane maker gave.

Among other things, the money from Boeing will help pay for a database and web portal to match students and internships, and planning meetings with interested employers around Washington.

The new field of study — called mechatronics — combines traditional industrial subjects, such as hydraulics, mechanics and welding, with newer areas, such as robotics and programming. That mix of skills is in high demand in a wide range of industries in Washington, including aerospace, advanced manufacturing, food processing, and shipping and logistics.

Companies in the state posted 12,632 job openings in 2015 for mechatronics technicians, and that demand is expected to grow in coming years, according to the Center of Excellence, which is based at Everett Community College.

The college created its Advanced Manufacturing Training &Education Center in 2014. Its mechatronics program began in September with room for 60 students.

The internships are open to low-income students at Everett, Renton, Shoreline, North Seattle and South Seattle community colleges.

Center of Excellence executive director Mary Kaye Bredeson said she hopes to fund more internships for more than 200 students over the next three years.

“With a median salary of $60,940, increasing access to mechatronics-related internships can fast-track disadvantaged youth to a better quality of life while meeting workforce needs,” she said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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