ARLINGTON — There’s a noisy shop space at Weston High School where college students turn blocks of metal into tools and machine parts.
It’s the precursor to what Everett Community College and Arlington officials hope will become a permanent arm of the Advanced Manufacturing Training &Education Center, or AMTEC, in north Snohomish County.
New EvCC classes at Weston are an extension of AMTEC in Everett. There are courses in precision machining and programs focused on job readiness and training for employers and employees.
The college began offering manufacturing and continuing education classes at Weston in September, following a small pilot program last summer. This winter, there are nine manufacturing students. More than 60 students are enrolled in other programs here for job and college preparation or professional development.
The manufacturing program is geared toward filling a growing demand for skilled workers. Arlington and Marysville have some of the highest concentrations of manufacturing jobs in the county, behind Paine Field and Boeing. There’s a need for more programs in north county to ready local workers for those jobs, said John Bonner, a vice president at EvCC.
The long-term goal is to find a larger, permanent location in the Arlington and Smokey Point area for an AMTEC North, he said.
“We’re working with the school district and the city, and with their help we’ve started a small program in Weston High School,” he said. “It doesn’t represent AMTEC North, but it represents an important step toward us doing something bigger in the future.”
Jerry Becraft, 52, and Adam Gott, 21, are instructors. Becraft started working in steel manufacturing when he was young, and he has taught and trained in the industry. Gott previously did construction work but learned precision machining from his grandfather.
“We are all about hands-on,” Becraft said.
There is some classroom work, but for the most part, they try to keep students on the machines.
Once students grasp the basics, they can pursue projects, such as making tools. Becraft and Gott answer questions and walk them through steps.
The instructors are strict about some things. They expect students to be on time, and they’re in class early in case someone wants to spend extra time on projects.
“We run it like a machine shop,” Becraft said.
The students learn to run manual and computer numerical control mills and lathes. They also practice reading blueprints and inspecting parts. More in-depth blueprint work is being added because it’s in demand from employers.
“We really try to tailor it to what they’re asking for,” Gott said. An advisory board helps them keep track of the needs.
Precision machining allows for variety and creativity. Students make levels, vice handles and a base for calipers, a measuring tool. Gott remembers his grandfather making a lever for an old-fashioned wood splitter. Becraft put months of work into researching, designing and machining a set of bagpipes made from African blackwood and copper.
Most students start the program with little or no knowledge about machining, Gott said. They can go from not knowing the names of machines to making their own tools within a month.
“I like building confidence,” Becraft said. “You put in the effort. You’re going to reap the reward.”
He also sees the program as a window for high school students, who can go straight into EvCC’s manufacturing classes after graduation.
Rob Giger, 46, started at the EvCC program to train for a new career after he was hurt working at a recycling plant.
“I wish I would have done this 20 years ago,” he said. “I like that I’m working with my hands and I also have to use my head. Everything we do is all precision, all within a few thousandths of an inch.”
Last week, Phil Montano, 48, used a manual lathe to make a replacement part for another machine. He previously worked as an aerospace engineer before being laid off, he said. The Marysville man decided to learn about the other end of the business. Now he better understands the demands on machinists to meet stringent requirements on parts.
Montano was grateful to find a training program nearby.
“I’m willing to go all over the place, but having it so close to home is super convenient,” he said.
Sam Carpenter, 31, was connected to the manufacturing program through WorkSource. He lives in Mount Vernon.
He enjoys working on manual machines. The program has taught him to double check every part because it’s all about detail, he said.
“It doesn’t take much to make a part scrap,” Carpenter said. “Despite that, it’s not as scary as it sounds.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org
Information sessions about AMTEC programs in Arlington are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday and again March 13. The sessions are at Weston High School, 4407 172nd St. NE. For more information, go to everettcc.edu/arlington.