Instructor Rick Smith (right) helps student Daniel Pedlar with a drill press at the Washington Aerospace Training & Research Center at Paine Field in Everett on Dec. 16. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Instructor Rick Smith (right) helps student Daniel Pedlar with a drill press at the Washington Aerospace Training & Research Center at Paine Field in Everett on Dec. 16. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Declining unemployment rate makes it hard to find good workers

EVERETT — Daniel Pedlar’s alarm goes off every weekday at 4:20 a.m.

The 20-year-old rolls out of bed, throws on his clothes — usually jeans and a T-shirt, grabs a bite to eat, heads out the door and gets into his car. It’s a short drive at that time of day from his mother’s house in Bothell to Paine Field.

He usually pulls into the Washington Aerospace Training &Research Center’s parking lot around 5 a.m. His aerospace tooling class doesn’t start for another 30 minutes. He doesn’t want to risk being late.

Before starting the 12-week certificate program, Pedlar had worked at McDonald’s since high school. “I didn’t see myself there” long term, he said. “I want to get my own house and start my own life.”

A friend suggested he go after a job at Boeing. Pedlar said he never paid much attention to the aerospace giant, but he has always enjoyed working with his hands and Boeing pays well. So, he enrolled at WATR.

“I wasn’t really thinking about any other careers,” he said.

WATR typically has about 50 students in certificate programs. Most of them already work in aerospace, many at Boeing’s Everett plant less than a mile north, said Larry Cluphf, who runs the center, which is part of Edmonds Community College.

That is a marked change from just a few years ago when the center regularly had about 75 students, few of whom had experience in advanced manufacturing, he said.

That does not surprise Anneliese Vance-Sherman, an economist who tracks the labor market from King to Whatcom counties for the state’s Employment Security Department.

Across Washington, the number of people looking for work is the lowest it’s been since July 2008, about the time the Great Recession hit the region, data show.

In an economic downturn, people often flock to training programs to wait out the storm and make themselves more marketable. When the economy heats up, people go back to work, she said.

Urban areas are leading the recovery. November’s unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in King County and 4.2 percent in Snohomish County. Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted and are preliminary, meaning they might be tweaked as more accurate data is collected.

The recession devastated the construction industry, which lost about one in three jobs. Now, it is among the fastest growing industries in the Everett area. Snohomish County added 1,900 specialty contractor jobs — such as drywallers, carpenters and electricians — since November 2015.

Services, information technology and health care are growing fast as well.

Manufacturing jobs in King and Snohomish counties have declined as companies make more use of robots, automated machines and other labor-saving technologies. Boeing also has reduced its workforce over the past year.

Regardless, it is a good time to go into aerospace and other advanced manufacturing, Cluphf said.

Baby boomers make up a huge portion of shop floor workers here, and are quickly approaching retirement age. WATR and other job training centers expect a big hiring wave in manufacturing over the next 10 years, he said.

State-supported training programs have added enrollment spaces in recent years, but it might not be enough to meet employers’ needs.

Already employers have trouble finding skilled workers, said Erin Monroe, chief executive officer of Workforce Snohomish, which works with public agencies, private companies and job seekers.

“Almost every employer I talk to tells me they are looking” for reliable people with the knowledge to do the job, she said.

Having good employees makes all the difference, said Binh Mach, who owns R.B. Enterprises, one of the area’s many machine shops.

“It doesn’t matter how high-tech your machines are if you don’t have skilled people to maximize” their value, he said. “If you don’t have that, you can’t compete with lower wage” employers outside the region.

He said he has high turnover among new hires. His shop has about 30 workers overall.

Engineers in aerospace are having a tougher time finding work.

Five years ago was a great time to be an engineer here, said Eric Lundeen, an executive at Waypoint Aeronautical, an aerospace engineering firm based at Paine Field.

Back then, Boeing and several major suppliers were ramping up new programs. Now, most of that work has moved into production, so companies have cut engineers in recent years, he said.

Several contract engineers said the local job market is thin these days, prompting them to look out of state for work.

“Now would be a great time to be hiring” engineers, he said.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Mountlake Terrace Library, part of the Sno-Isle Libraries, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sno-Isle workers cite safety, unfilled positions in union push

Workers also pointed to inconsistent policies and a lack of a say in decision-making. Leadership says they’ve been listening.

A view over the Port of Everett Marina looking toward the southern Whidbey Island fault zone in March 2021. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County agencies to simulate major disaster

The scenario will practice the response to an earthquake or tsunami. Dozens of agencies will work with pilots.

Most Read