Investment in technical programs pays off for all of us

You probably already know that Snohomish County is home to the most manufacturing jobs in Washington state — 65,000 direct jobs and more than 745 companies.

You may have also heard that our county tops the list for aerospace manufacturing jobs, too, with 47,000 direct jobs and more than 215 companies, including the Boeing Company.

What you might not know is that the demand for advanced manufacturing is growing and employers are seeking an increasing number of skilled, trained employees.

In 2013, companies had 400 advanced manufacturing job openings in Snohomish County. Those jobs were at companies such as Esterline, Avtech Corp-360, Umbra Cuscinetti, Windspeed Technical Solutions, Airgas Inc. and Boeing.

The number of job openings in Snohomish County and Washington state is expected to increase. By 2022, our state expects the demand for Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining operators to increase 28 percent. For machinists, job growth is estimated at 35 percent.

To meet the need, Edmonds and Everett community colleges are working together to offer affordable, high-tech training. Together, we’re asking the state to invest in expanding and enhancing our technical programs to ensure companies have the skilled employees they need to thrive.

At EvCC, the college wants to grow the precision machining program. In two quarters (about 6 months), machining students get the training they need for family-wage jobs at local companies. In the past year, 90 percent of EvCC’s graduates were hired within 30 days. Some had job offers before they graduated. Students can also continue in the program to earn an associate degree.

Terrance Hall, 29, of Everett completed the program in June 2013 and was offered a job the week before he earned his precision machining certificate.

Prior to earning his certificate, he was doing construction work and any other work he could get to support his family, including his newborn daughter.

“I was doing anything that would put food on the table. My wife saw a program at the college and she came home and told me about it, and I knew I wanted to do it,” he said. “As soon as I got into the program, I fell in love with it.”

He now has a full-time job with benefits, including health care for his wife and daughter. He plans to continue his education to earn an engineering degree.

At Edmonds CC, students can train for advanced manufacturing careers by earning two short (one quarter) certificates and/or two two-year degrees (one that transfers to a four-year program) in Engineering Technology.

In addition to short career training programs and associate degrees, Snohomish County also has a need for engineers with bachelor’s degrees. Everett and Edmonds community colleges both provide a springboard for these degrees. Students can get a great start — in affordable programs with small class sizes — in a variety of associate of science transfer degree programs. In fact, four of Edmonds CC’s five associate of science transfer degree options have an engineering focus.

Many engineering students from our colleges are staying close to home to earn their engineering degrees through Washington State University North Puget Sound, which offers its outstanding mechanical engineering and electrical engineering degrees at EvCC’s campus.

Last year, one of Edmonds CC’s student commencement speakers related his story of immigrating to the United States from Egypt with his family and having to begin a degree in mechanical engineering all over again (he was more than halfway through his degree in Egypt.) At Edmonds CC, he began with English as a Second Language courses and then went on to complete an associate of science degree with a focus on mechanical engineering. He is now completing his bachelor’s degree at Washington State University.

Science- and technology-based programs require unique learning environments. EvCC is creating a 37,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Training &Education Center (AMTEC). It will be located inside 1001 N. Broadway at College Plaza in a $3.5 million remodel of the college-owned warehouse. AMTEC is scheduled to open in 2014.

The center will bring together six programs — manufacturing pre-employment, computer numerical control (CNC) machining, composites, engineering technician, welding and fabrication, and quality assurance.

The center and new curriculum will teach students about the manufacturing process from start to finish. EvCC is partnering with the K-12 system, with courses designed from middle school through college with input from industry and teachers from middle school, high school and EvCC.

Edmonds CC is in the design phase of a new 70,000-square-foot facility dedicated to Science, Engineering, and Technology. The college will break ground in 2015, with occupancy planned for 2017. The building will provide modern, expanded math and science lab space; flexible classrooms that can be used for a variety of teaching formats and academic disciplines; and technology tools for students to use in informal group study spaces

Edmonds CC also supports student learning in engineering technology fields (materials science, composites, electronics, networks, etc.) at its state-of-the-art, 11,000-square-foot lab. The flexible manufacturing facility, which is also available for use by local businesses, is outfitted with the latest CNC machinery (programmable machining tools), metrology tools, composites fabrication equipment, and 3D printers. Students work on the same equipment they will use on the job in a wide variety of manufacturing situations.

The lab is designated as a national “FabLab” that meets requirements developed by MIT and is also a National Science Foundation-funded center for materials technology education. But staying current with technology so that the skills students develop are directly applicable to available and emerging jobs is a financial challenge for colleges. Replacement of a single piece of lab machinery can cost as much as $100,000.

To ensure a bright future for our county and our state, we’re asking our state leaders to support our request for an investment in our technical programs. Funding for training programs pays off in more jobs, brighter futures and opportunities for growth for our local companies.

David Beyer and Jean Hernandez are presidents, respectively, of Everett Community College and Edmonds Community College.

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