On June 22nd, AJAC held its first virtual apprenticeship graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 and 2021—ushering in 129 graduates across six different apprenticeship occupations.

These 129 graduates represented Washington State’s first Automation Technician and Industrial Manufacturing Technician journey-level apprentices in addition to Machinists, Tool & Die Makers, Industrial Maintenance Technicians, and Production Technicians.

The COVID-10 global pandemic fundamentally changed how we work, how we learn, and how we manage the risk to apprentices, coworkers, families and our community members. AJAC’s top priority this past year was to ensure apprentices can continue to learn, whether employed or not, while providing our instructors the ability to teach in environments that are safe, healthy and greatly reduce exposure to COVID-19.

Apprentices are hands-on learners and as an apprenticeship organization, our style of teaching reflects those needs.

If it weren’t for AJAC, I wouldn’t be where I am, making the money I am now, and I might not even have a job.

Emily Wetli, a Production Technician (Youth) graduate from Quality Stamping and Machining, shared a few words about what it meant to complete a registered apprenticeship, “Like most teenagers, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. If it weren’t for AJAC, I would never be in the position I am in now. Throughout my two years, I worked in four departments, ran multi-axis CNC machines, and most recently began working in the programming department. Getting to experience work life while still in high school was a great opportunity and one that I never thought was possible,” Wetli said.

“I have learned to not only love aerospace, but manufacturing as a whole. The youth apprenticeship has been extremely beneficial to my life. After graduating high school earlier this month, I was officially hired on as a full time employee. If it weren’t for AJAC, I wouldn’t be where I am, making the money I am now, and I might not even have a job. With AJAC, I have been with my company for two years, and it has been the best thing I have decided to do with my life,” Wetli added.

With the completion of AJAC’s apprenticeship, apprentices receive a nationally recognized journey-level certification signaling their hard work and perseverance. This provides them with vast opportunities as they grow in their career. The fortitude of our 129 graduates has equated to a combined nearly 5,745 college credits earned, 57,450 classroom hours and over 750,000 hours logged through their on-the-job training!

As we return to a “new normal”, we call on these apprentices to be leaders, mentors, role models and future instructors into the ever-evolving advanced manufacturing industries.

AJAC Machinist apprentice, Mallory Martindale, was invited to speak on a panel regarding women in nontraditional occupations hosted by WANTO. Mallory is nearly complete with her four-year machining apprenticeship, and shared her experiences about how she started in the industry, and how local communities can improve their outreach strategies to encourage more women to pursue careers in manufacturing.

About WANTO: The Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant helps to expand pathways for women to enter and lead in all industries. In 2020, the WANTO grant program awarded $4,100,000 to six community-based organizations to increase women’s employment in apprenticeship programs and nontraditional occupations.

In-case you missed it, Mallory was recently interviewed by the Everett Herald to talk about her journey into manufacturing.

Nyck Davis spent his afternoons measuring objects around his house. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Nyck to reimagine himself, not as a former automotive technician at Mercedes Benz, but as a future employee of Blue Origin.

Nyck’s fortune was waiting to be told. He heard about the Manufacturing Academy from a friend who recently graduated from AJAC’s pre-apprenticeship program. He encouraged him to apply since he needed a new direction—a new skillset—that could attract some of the top aerospace companies in the state.

“I knew you could always make some crazy things being a machinist. It blows my mind knowing how much work goes into machining. You have to study the blueprints, do all the math, figure out how to set-up the machine and what cutters to use,” Davis said.

The Manufacturing Academy provided Nyck with a creative outlet to hone his skills and understand how things are made from raw materials.

I keep saying it and I’ll never stop saying it, I will never have the job I have now without the AJAC program.

Troy Ironmonger, AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy instructor worked with Nyck and his peers to prepare them for a career in advanced manufacturing, “Nyck’s drive to become a machinist was evident from the first day. He was able to build on the skills he learned in his high school shop class, as an automotive technician, and apply those to our class,” Ironmonger said.

As the Manufacturing Academy program came to a close, Nyck began his employment search, looking for companies that could elevate his foundational machining knowledge.

His sights were set on one company—Blue Origin. “I applied to eight or nine different positions and eventually landed on apprentice machinist. Luckily, it was announced the last week of class that Blue Origin is now a sponsor of the AJAC program,” Davis said. “Timing wise, I got extremely lucky and I ended up landing the apprentice machinist job.”

Six weeks after becoming a full-time employee at Blue Origin, Nyck was ready to begin his career as an AJAC machinist apprentice. His first two quarters covered engineering drawings and shop algebra, two concepts Nyck became familiar with in the Manufacturing Academy. Now in his third quarter, Nyck is learning the theory behind precision machining, including manual machining, tolerances, speeds and feeds, and parts finishing.

Looking back on his journey from becoming unemployed, to landing his dream job, Nyck is humbled by those who gave their time to grow his craft, “I am super excited to be a part of this program. I keep saying it and I’ll never stop saying it, I will never have the job I have now without the AJAC program. If you’re thinking about getting into the AJAC apprenticeship, I would say do it! It’s completely worth it. If you have what you want to do in mind and you work hard to get there, you will not regret it!”

To learn more about AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy program, please visit: www.ManufacturingAcademy.org.

Kailey Harding’s interest in manufacturing first peaked when she saw students making carbon fiber skateboards at the Pierce County Skills Center. As an avid longboarder, she was immediately drawn to the hands-on learning.

After two years of learning composites, fabrication, and machining through the skills center, Kailey landed a job as a machinist and immediately enrolled in AJAC’s four-year machinist apprenticeship program. Through her time in the apprenticeship, Kailey grew her foundational machining skills through one-on-one mentorship and industry-aligned curriculum delivered by AJAC’s instructors.

Her current role at Spearman Corporation in Kent, Washington is to create high tolerance parts for commercial and military airplanes. Over the last three years, Kailey has proudly machined parts for the Boeing 737, 777, and 767 respectively.

For Kailey, the industry as a whole can do a better job of marketing manufacturing to women, “Its really not influenced. You don’t see advertising to say ‘Hey, females, work here!’. It is a big growth process to get to where I am today. Overall, it is a morale boost going to AJAC. You’re learning different things throughout the four years and every time you learn something new, you can take it back to work and apply it.”

Kailey’s advice to encourage more women to pursue manufacturing, “No matter where you work, you have to have the passion for it. If it is in you, and you are feeling a little nervous, step on in it. I would definitely get into AJAC’s because they are going to guide you and support you. Go for it; be confident in your words, and who you are.”

Kailey is in the third year of her machinist apprenticeship and expects to graduate in 2021.

To learn more about AJAC’s Machinist Apprenticeship program, please visit: https://www.ajactraining.org/apprenticeship/occupations/machinist/.

To launch your career in advanced manufacturing, please visit AJAC’s Getting Started page: https://www.ajactraining.org/apprenticeship/getting-started/

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Aurelia Greene has completed all of the college-level classwork for her Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee Machinist Apprenticeship Program, and now she’s building up hours with paid on-the-job training. Apprenticeships in Washington’s advanced manufacturing industry create a wealth of opportunities Aurelia Greene says she started at the bottom of the barrel, but she didn’t stay there long.