The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), Kent Valley Economic Development, City of Kent, Port of Seattle, and Green River College have partnered to support Kent manufacturers and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Manufacturing Employee Retention Program (MERP).

This is primarily for businesses located in Kent or companies that have qualifying employees that reside in the Kent community.

This funding will support 65 individuals who either work or live in Kent, Washington. Employers who choose to participate can receive $2,200 per employee in wage reimbursement through October 31, 2020 (retroactive to July 1, 2020). Each company can receive funding for 10 or less employees.

There is no deadline to apply however; funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

To apply for this funding and learn about the eligibility requirements, please visit:

AJAC’s annual graduation ceremony at the Museum of Flight was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Although we will celebrate all of our graduates during the 2021 ceremony, we want to share some thoughts from our graduates and employers about what it means to become a journey-level apprentice in the advanced manufacturing industries.

This year, AJAC graduated nearly 70 apprentices who are employed across 49 aerospace and advanced manufacturing companies in Washington State. These graduates represent five different occupations including our two-year Production Technician (Youth), 18-month Industrial Manufacturing Technician, four-year Machinist (Aircraft-Oriented), four-year Industrial Maintenance Technician and five-year Tool & Die Maker programs.

Meet Rachel Bertapelle, one of 19 AJAC Industrial Maintenance Technician apprentices at Agri Beef in Toppenish, Washington. Rachel enrolled in AJAC’s 8,000 hour program this past winter and is now in the second quarter of her apprenticeship.

AJAC sat down with Rachel in early March to learn how she got her start in the maintenance field including her steps to becoming a registered apprentice.

Q&A with Rachel Bertapelle

What Is Your Job at Washington Beef?

I am a maintenance mechanic with a primary focus of my work being in the truck shop servicing fleet vehicles and also working on preventative maintenance in the hide plant.

How Did You Begin Your Career?

Prior to becoming a mechanic, I worked as a secretary for the Department of Corrections. I realized I didn’t want to work behind a computer for my whole life so I made a career change and applied to Perry Tech’s Agriculture Equipment Technician program.

How Did You Learn About the AJAC Industrial Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship?

My supervisor Craig approached me prior to the program starting asking me if I was interested. I knew it would help broaden my skills in this field and better understand the industrial maintenance side of the industry.

Rachel AJAC Apprentice

You Started the Apprenticeship in Winter 2020, How Have Things Gone So Far?

The apprenticeship program has been great so far. I’ve learned quite a bit, particularly on the mechanic side and new techniques I did not learn at Perry Tech. I’m not just focusing on engines and motors, I’m learning more about the pumps and other equipment commonly found in an industrial maintenance environment.

Has Your Classroom Experience Translated to Your Job Duties?

The first quarter class was print reading which I did not have prior experience in. Learning how to read them and understanding the correct way to put together a part is very helpful for what I’m doing. Since then, I’ve been able to read blueprints for our machines out in the hide plant. That’s been very helpful!

Who Is Your Instructor and How Has Their Teaching Techniques Helped Your Growth?

My instructor is Steven Matzcak and he’s great. He’s a really funny guy! Steven helps with the terminology and everything that comes with it. He doesn’t hesitate to explain anything in more detail especially if an apprentice is struggling.

How Has the Maintenance Field Evolved?

For a maintenance technician, there is a growing need to understand electrical, particularly with computers and their integration into the field. Computer systems are incredibly complex and when working with a specific piece of equipment, understanding the electrical workings is more prevalent than ever.

New Lost-Cost, Short-Term Trainings From AJAC

AJAC is excited to announce this July we will offer three consecutive short-term trainings at our Advanced Manufacturing Prep Training Center in Kent, Washington.


These training’s are designed for current manufacturers to grow and expand their skill set in a variety of key areas utilizing curriculum developed by AJAC’s subject matter experts and delivered by industry professionals.

Our Schedule of Trainings:

Each training will take place on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. AJAC’s apprenticeship employers will receive a discount for each student enrolled.

For more information, please visit our Advanced Manufacturing Prep Website.

During these unprecedented times, AJAC understands the disruption this crisis has caused in many lives.  Our top priority is to ensure apprentices can continue to learn and instructors are able to teach in environments that are safe, healthy and greatly reduce exposure to COVID-19. Apprentices tend to be hands-on learners and as an apprenticeship organization, our style of teaching has always been conducted in an applied manner to meet the learning needs of apprentices.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has challenged the way we provide applied learning across the state of Washington. As a result, many of our courses have been moved to an online platform so when we all come through this challenging time together, apprentices and employers will be poised to help restart the economy as part of Washington State’s highly-skilled workforce.

As a registered apprenticeship organization approved through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), we are required to provide Related Supplemental Instruction for spring quarter to the best of our abilities in an accessible and equitable manner.  We acknowledge online instruction may pose accessibility, connectivity and anxiety for some apprentices. We also realize tuition may be of concern during these times.  All of AJAC’s staff are available to address your concerns and to help eliminate these challenges.

For health and safety reasons, in addition to guidelines set forth by the governor and L&I and the subsequent closure of our partnering high schools, community and technical colleges, AJAC has postponed some in-person spring courses which require more in depth hands-on content while converting all other classes to an online platform.

AJAC will continue to have transparent communication with our apprentices, employers, instructors, and partnering educational institutions. As changes occur, we encourage you to visit our COVID-19 web page for the most up-to-date information.

To partnering employers, we are here to answer questions you may have regarding any AJAC training program and specific apprentice questions and/or challenges.

To AJAC apprentices, I want to thank you for your patience and flexibility. I encourage you to work with us to make the best of the situation, to continue your education and to reach out to AJAC staff if you have concerns, anxiety, questions, tuition concerns and accessibility/connectivity challenges.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the amazing AJAC instructors who dedicate countless hours every year to pass on their knowledge to our apprentices. Their willingness to step up to the challenge, adapt, and remain positive has not been easy and our entire staff is incredibly thankful for your dedication to the teaching of our apprentices.


Demetria “Lynn” Strickland
Executive Director
Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee

To view or download the letter in PDF format, please click here