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.

Seth Hamilton, one of AJAC’s first Youth Apprentice graduates, prepares his HAAS CNC machine for a new part.

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.”

Sean Colyer shakes Governor Inslee’s hand after learning about Sean’s new role at American Structures & Design.

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.”

Sam Yost and Tanner Gerken, two Youth Apprentices at Quality Stamping & Machining, pose for a photo with Governor Jay Inslee.

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.

Governor Inslee delivered his annual State of the State Address to the Washington State Senate and the State House of Representatives on January 9, 2018.

During his speech, Governor Inslee spent a few minutes highlighting his Career Connected Learning initiative, his trip to Switzerland and AJAC’s inaugural Youth Apprenticeship program, “You can go to Tacoma and see for yourself how this works. It was a joy last year to celebrate our state’s first 15 registered youth apprentices as they prepared to launch rewarding careers in aerospace. Let’s expand that opportunity, as well as apprenticeship programs for our veterans and other Washingtonians, in the coming years,” Inslee said.

Since Tacoma launched its first Youth Apprenticeship program, AJAC has implemented similar programs at West Valley High School (Yakima), Snohomish High School and secured partnerships with Puyallup High School, Shadle Park High School (Spokane School District) , Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center, Everett School District and the Mukilteo School District – all whom expect to launch their AJAC in 2018.

Learn more about AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship Program online.

A new report performance audit for Washington State emphasizes the state’s need to better align high-growth, high-demand occupations with career and technical education (CTE) courses currently offered in high school. The industries with a large skills gap include aerospace, manufacturing, human protective services, computer science and many more.

AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship program is leading the charge to offer our state’s first registered apprenticeship program in the ever-evolving industries of aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

“The importance of youth apprenticeships was recently recognized by Governor Inslee: We ought to be strengthening and expanding pre-apprenticeship programs in our schools… youth apprenticeship leverages one of our state’s most effective workforce development investments, which is registered apprenticeships. The apprenticeship model is the gold standard of work-based learning.

In 2016, Washington was awarded a $2.7 million federal grant to help grow and diversify apprenticeships. The grant, overseen by L&I, focuses partly on youth and will allow the agency to improve tracking of youth apprenticeship growth and success. The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) is taking a leading role in expanding youth apprenticeships into the K-12 educational system.

As of July 2017, AJAC reports the following progress in secondary schools:

  • Tacoma Public Schools has 14 youth apprentices receiving full-time on-the-job-training (OJT) at local advanced manufacturing companies. As these students entered their second related supplemental instruction (RSI) class in fall 2017, the program began recruiting for a new class of youth apprentices.
  • West Valley School District has three youth apprentices receiving full-time OJT at local advanced manufacturing companies. Recruitment will continue as a selection of youth apprentices enter from the Core Plus program. The goal is to enroll 10-15 youth apprentices by fall 2017.
  • In addition, AJAC is exploring ways to expand their apprenticeship efforts with school districts in Everett, Puyallup, Snohomish and Sumner as well as the Sno-Isle Skills Center.”

To learn more about this report, including coverage from the Seattle Times, please visit the links below:

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.