City of Tacoma, Wash. working to avoid skilled worker shortage

Four schools in Pierce County have programs for training aerospace workers, and include composites-related skills.

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With the boomer generation set to retire, and Boeing and other aerospace companies ramping up building and production efforts throughout Washington State, the City of Tacoma and Pierce County have redoubled their efforts to maintain and build a highly trained worked force.

The manufacturing of the Boeing 737 Max and others will bring over 20,000 jobs to the state over the next few years. With approximately 50 percent of Boeing’s workers becoming eligible for retirement in the next five to seven years, city and county officials have been working alongside education leaders from high schools, community colleges and state universities to ensure that aviation companies, including Boeing, not only have a viable workforce, but that the industry continues to grow in the Pacific Northwest.

By increasing offerings in composites, aerospace engineering, manufacturing, line/machinist work, and more, Tacoma and Pierce County will succeed in creating the next generation of workers for the aerospace industry. With the creation of numerous aerospace industry training programs, enrollment has continuously increased enough to the point were certain there will be more than enough qualified workers for the future.

For example, skills training schools, like the Pierce County Skills Center, start as young as high school in training for the composites industry. Also, the Manufacturing Academy provides workforce training and recruitment programs designed by local employers to prepare workers for manufacturing and aerospace careers. Employers hire directly from the talent pool for positions in production, machining, and assembly. The academy offers a nine-week program designed for job placement at the end of the course.

Here is a brief description of what each school offers:

Pierce County Skills Center: PCSC aims to create career options for high school students that will lead them to real jobs that mesh with workplace demands. The center offers training courses that include: aerospace composite technicians, metal fabrication/machining, welding, and in building trades. The skill center works in conjunction with local community colleges such as Bates, and includes high school students from seven school districts in Pierce County.

Clover Park Technical College: The South Hill Campus of Clover Park Technical College is the place for all things aviation. For the past eight years, Clover Park has offered college training and certification for Aviation maintenance technicians and Airframe Maintenance Technicians. The Aerospace Composite Technician certificate is a two-quarter program designed to prepare students to fabricate, assemble, and repair composite materials on aircraft. Graduates of all the courses meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for the issuance of Airframe and Powerplant certificates at the end of their courses.

Bates Technical College: Bates offers college level training and certifications in areas such as welding and composites. One of the programs is a certification in machining, a pre-apprenticeship program for the Tacoma Machinists Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. The other is for the high-tech, automated computer numerical control (CNC) type of machining. Students are taught by instructors from a workshop on the campus in Tacoma that is set up to mirror what actually happens on a shop floor. There are also 12 Washington state-approved apprenticeship training programs for high schoolers affiliated with Bates Technical College, including the aerospace industry. Apprentices work in the field earning wages at a percentage of the journey-level rate while also attending classes on a part-time basis, typically in the evenings.

Manufacturing Academy: The academy offers a 9 week, 35 credit program which is approved, taught and designed by local manufacturers and industry professionals. The academy's workforce training and recruitment programs are designed to prepare workers for manufacturing and aerospace careers. Students who make it through the intensive screening process, get all their schooling paid for, and employers from a wide-range of industries hire directly from the talent pool for positions in production, machining, and assembly once students complete the course. Courses taught include: manufacturing basics, industrial safety, manufacturing tools, composites, welding and fork lift, flagger and OSHA certifications.

Contacts:
Manufacturing Academy: Kristi Grassman- 253-254-7653
Clover Park Technical College: Tawny Dotson- 253-589-6048
Bates Technical College: Kym Pleger- 253.680.7102  
Pierce County Skills Center: Michelle Ledbetter- 253.683.5951