Seth Hamilton was nearing his 17th birthday and knew he wasn’t going to college. His after-high-school plans did not involve a four-year institution. Rising student loans and lack of finances steered Seth away from the popular choice of college and universities. As a junior at Lincoln High School, Seth enrolled in AJAC’s first Youth Apprenticeship program for high school students. One year later, Seth, along with Sean Colyer, another youth apprentice, are set to graduate and become Washington State’s first youth apprentice graduates this June.
During a visit from Governor Inslee in April, four of AJAC’s youth apprentices, along with their respective employers, toured the Governor around their shop floor highlighting the impact Youth Apprenticeship has made. “We started years ago trying to recruit younger people,” said Marianne Eveland, Production Manager at Quality Stamping & Machining. “This program allows the community to have extra help recruiting the right type of people.” A thorough vetting process designed by AJAC and local employers provided companies a platform to find the right candidates who have a focus on growing their skill set in manufacturing, whether it be machining, engineering, or fabrication.
During the recruitment process at all ten Tacoma public high schools, Hamilton showed a strong interest in manufacturing. Lincoln High School, known locally for its outstanding shop class, laid the foundation for his success at American Structures & Design. Although he worked with manual machines in high school, Hamilton soon developed a new-found-love for Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machines, “Working on CNC machines is pretty intimate. It can be tedious at times, but you’re not doing the same thing every day. It has a lot of different things that can happen, different things you have to look for. It keeps the job interesting, it keeps your brain working.”
What else are we going to build and how else are we going to build this company? Knowing today, it’s going to be with the younger guys.” – Mark Weissenbuehler, President of American Structures & Design
Sean Colyer, another Lincoln High School graduate, works alongside Seth at American Structures & Design in the machining department. Unlike Seth, Sean did not take shop class during his time in high school. However, engineering class contributed to his success in AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship program. “What I’ve enjoyed doing at American Structures & Design is mainly work on machines and have the ability to do more than just machining,” Colyer said. “Engineer Design in high school helped me with knowing how AutoCAD works, which all of our drawings are based off of. It’s nice having the background of how the drawings are made while I look at the blueprint.”
Employing high school students on the shop floor can do more than help a company’s bottom line and hiring needs. It brings an added excitement. It enriches the morale of the shop floor from entry-level employees to the very top.
Mark Weissenbuehler, President of American Structures & Design, noticed the enthusiasm youth apprentices bring to manufacturing, “As we got involved with the youth apprentices, and the younger generation, it was fun to watch them evolve, learn, and get excited. Which in return helped me learn and get excited,” Weissenbuehler said. “It filled the need for where my company is at and where we are going. What else are we going to build and how else are we going to build this company? Knowing today, it’s going to be with the younger guys.”
The trend across America for employing the next generation is changing. No longer does every student fit into the same mold as a four-year, college-bound student. Too many jobs and opportunities are being passed simply because the experience of working in manufacturing isn’t made available. Youth Apprenticeship has made local companies in Washington State find the diamond in the ruff. The diamond in this case is a determined, well-mannered, motivated, and technologically advanced high school student. Youth Apprenticeship doesn’t have to be for someone who will never go to a four-year college, but it can be for anyone who wants to connect real-world skills with their personal interests and aspirations.
Hamilton and Colyer are set to graduate on June 22nd as Production Technicians Youth Apprentices. The road to manufacturing has been paved, but their journey is far from over. After their requirements are met, Hamilton and Colyer will enroll in AJAC’s Machinist (Aircraft Oriented) apprenticeship program to continue their education and on-the-job training. But where would they be today if this opportunity didn’t exist?
“I hope as more and more people find out about this program, especially if they are younger in high school like I was, to seriously think about it. If you have a little experience, and you like it, you can start making money right away. Kick start your life rather than wait around for ten years, not knowing what to do,” Hamilton explained. “The fact I get paid to take college courses, is the exact opposite of what it normally is, it’s pretty cool, I like it a lot. But I honestly don’t know where I would be today.”
View photos from Governor Inslee’s visit on AJAC’s Flickr page.
Apprenticeships are not an alternative to higher education. It is higher education. This sentiment rang loud and true during the 2018 Governor’s Youth Apprenticeship Summit, which in its second year, expanded the conversation of Youth Apprenticeships to not only aerospace and advance manufacturing, but other sustainable industries including healthcare, culinary and IT. What many consider to be a bipartisan topic, apprenticeships have long-stood the test of time to deliver career-ready skills and college-level classroom instruction to our nation’s high-growth, in-demand jobs, many which do not require a four-year degree.
Governor Inslee, during his keynote address, made it known that post-secondary education does not mean every student needs to attend a four-year institution, “It is a revolutionary change in how we think of our children’s future, and when we have a revolution, it’s great to be right at the beginning,” Governor Inslee said during his opening remarks.
“We need to grow this dramatically…90% of parents say their kids going to get a four-year college degree, but only 30% do…We have to stop telling our kids that you are a failure if you don’t get a four-year degree,” Inslee said.
Governor Inslee during his remarks at the 2018 Governor’s Youth Apprenticeship Summit in Olympia, Washington.
A cultural change is needed in our communities if Youth Apprenticeship will continue to thrive. To do so, expanding the opportunities for students will make the goal of 100,000 youth apprentices over the next ten years realistic and obtainable. This commitment can only be met if other industries begin to expand their reach into the local high schools. Spokane started the charge with Youth Apprenticeships in Washington State and have since expanded their line of paid on-the-job training to industries such as healthcare, culinary, and manufacturing.
Governor Inslee also acknowledged the state’s first IT apprentice to enroll in a new program launched by the Washington Technology Industry Association Workforce Institute which aims to provide a pipeline of talent, particularly for “underrepresented groups such as minorities, women and veterans to gain training, certification and placement within the talent-hungry tech industry.”
Sam Yost (left) and Richard Oeun (right) pose for a photo after their Youth Apprenticeship Panel during the 2018 Governor’s Youth Apprenticeship Summit on January 30, 2018.
To move the needle on Youth Apprenticeships, many agree that businesses need to play a more prominent role in hiring the next generation of workers. From workplace variances to industry-aligned curriculum, businesses must be a part of the conversation if Youth Apprenticeships are going to thrive in Washington State.
Washington is one of 13 states to implement a structured, register Youth Apprenticeship program, joining others including Wisconsin, Kentucky, South Carolina and Colorado. Employers, high schools, post-secondary institutions and intermediaries make up the foundation of successful programs. The infrastructure needed for Youth Apprenticeships is great, but reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary. Brent Parton, Deputy Director at New America’s Center on Education and Skills closed the summit elegantly, “Youth apprenticeship is the biggest ask, with the biggest possible upside.”
Governor Inslee alongside Paula Yost and Sam Yost (AJAC Youth Apprentice) after his keynote address at the 2018 Governor’s Youth Apprenticeship Summit.
Check out photos from the 2018 Governor’s Youth Apprenticeship Summit on AJAC’s Flickr page.
On October 16, 2017, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee met with the partners, community organizations and local-area employers to discuss how the first year of Youth Apprenticeship has gone. The 30-minute meeting was used to brief Governor Inslee on how this Youth Apprenticeship program is not only benefiting our local high school students, but the employers who are in need of highly-skilled, and highly-trained workforce.
The skills-gap in aerospace and advanced manufacturing continues to grow and through registered Youth Apprenticeship, employers can finally develop a pipeline of talent at a young age, with a greater chance at retaining these future high school graduates as lifelong learners of the trade and industry.
On October 6, 2017, students from the Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) toured Gensco, Inc. as part of Manufacturing Day. Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. TPS brought their Blue Media Production film crew to show how HVAC equipment is created and how students learned about careers in this industry.
Washington STEM, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and AJAC gave a joint presentation on all-things Youth Apprenticeship during a live webinar on June 26, 2017. Josie Bryan and Jody Robbins from L&I gave a comprehensive background on the apprenticeship system including how youth fit into the equation and the standards with which they are governed by.
AJAC’s Deputy Director, Shannon Matson spoke in length about AJAC’s Production Technician program which kicked off in January 2017 in the Tacoma Public School District. Shannon included the importance of identifying an occupation, how to engage employers, creating a committee and the balance between structured on-the-job training and college-level classroom instruction. A special thanks to Gilda Wheeler of Washington STEM for allowing AJAC to talk about our Youth Apprenticeship program!
View the PowerPoint here.