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Washington’s aerospace industry faces a shortage of skilled workers due to increased orders, pending retirement, and technological advancements that outpace workers’ skills. 

The aerospace industry represents a powerful economic force both throughout Washington State and nationally.  According to Nicole Lamb, Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services:

“...the U.S. aerospace and defense industry is a strategic contributor to the economy. . . ."  Nationally the industry employed some 11.7 million American workers in July 2010 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the total value of aerospace shipments for 2009 was nearly $189 billion.  Andrew Casey reports (State Export Behavior and Policy, 2008) that:

  • Washington is the 4th largest exporting state in the US (5.1% of total)
  • Aerospace accounts for 26.3% of manufacturing shipments in the State

— White Paper on Aerospace; Dr. Richard N. Strand, December 2010 

Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing Pipeline Advisory Committee

In 2012, Gov. Chris Gregoire established the Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline Advisory Committee (through SSHB 2156) to study the skills gap in aerospace workers production.  As part of its Pipeline Committee work, SBCTC and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board surveys employers annually and plans strategies to close the gap.

2013 Annual Aerospace Report

2012 Annual Aerospace Report

Workforce Training for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing

A call to action

In response to the Governor’s and industry calls for increased attention and effort to the aerospace skills gap, community and technical colleges have ramped up training to narrow the skills gap and move well-trained workers into well-paying jobs. The following groups work together to answer the call to bridge the skills gap:

Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC)

The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) was born out of this initiative to manage and facilitate the development and growth of registered aerospace and advanced manufacturing apprenticeship programs in Washington State. AJAC designs, develops, and implements these apprenticeship programs for multiple aerospace and manufacturing occupations. The AJAC committee is comprised of industry employers, employees, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and has equal representation from the different segments of the aerospace industry.

Aerospace Center of Excellence

Colleges share cutting-edge curricula designed jointly with aerospace leaders and industry subject-matter experts. Leading the way is the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing at Everett Community College.  The center is a one-stop hub for the industry and experts to design curricula that is utilized system wide.

Air Washington Federal Grant

A $20 million competitive federal grant to a consortium of 11 community and technical colleges and the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC).  The consortium is comprised of industry employers, employees, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  Spokane Community College is the lead for the project.

For more information, go to the official Air Washington website.

Washington Aerospace Training Center (WATR)

Located at Paine Field, the WATR training center offers short-term certificates for aircraft-assembly, maintenance, and inspections job in the large aerospace manufacturing plants and related businesses of the Puget Sound corridor.

Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center (INATC) at Spokane Community College

The Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center provides training needed by aerospace companies that supply tools and parts for aircraft.  Courses include CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and design technology, CNC machinist, computer software engineering, electronic, hydraulic and pneumatic automation, and welding.

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