Nearly two years ago before the start of the pandemic, AJAC held its last in-person employer roundtable in Snohomish County. Since then, a dramatic shift in workforce development and skill advancement has taken place across the state, particularly in the county’s robust manufacturing industry.
Snohomish County’s concentration of manufacturing workers is the largest in Washington State, in fact, there are more manufacturing jobs in this county than any other west of the Rocky Mountains. With a large manufacturing footprint, comes new challenges with skill advancement and remaining competitive in the labor market.
The labor shortage of entry-level and middle-skilled positions continues to be a topic of conversation among manufacturing employers, who face obstacles the labor market has not seen in decades. To address these needs, AJAC focused its roundtable discussion on the investment of apprenticeship, not only as a recruitment strategy, but a sustainable pipeline for skilled occupations.
“There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to navigating the different avenues AJAC can serve employer members,” said Demetria “Lynn” Strickland, Executive Director at AJAC. “These roundtables give our staff an opportunity to have intimate conversations with local employers, understand their needs, and work with them to develop programming that will help in bridging their workforce development gap.”
20 small to medium-sized employers representing the aerospace, plastics, maritime, transportation, food processing, and social enterprise industries participated in the 90 minute discussion including employers active in registered apprenticeship and those looking to diversify their internal training goals.
“It was encouraging to have so many local employers attend this roundtable, given the difficult state of affairs with COVID-19,” said Erin Williams, Regional Program Manager at AJAC. “Whether they are hiring immediately or anticipate a future hiring need, AJAC is poised to help manufacturers address those needs in real-time through our suite of training programs and strategic partnerships across the state.”
AJAC touched on new entry-level and advanced apprenticeship programs including the Industrial Manufacturing Technician and CNC Programmer, along with grant stipends for employers, financial aid for apprentices, youth apprenticeship, and onsite mentorship and OJT support services. Employers were eager to learn about AJAC’s upcoming Logistics & Supply Chain apprenticeship—aimed to directly support frontline and warehouse workers who want to build up additional credentials focused on logistics and supply chain management.
A special thank you to Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center for hosting this event.
Launched annually on the first Friday in October with events that continue throughout the month, MFG Day helps show the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders.
MFG Day empowers manufacturers to come together to address their collective challenges so they can help their communities and future generations thrive.
To usher in MFG Day 2021, AJAC partnered with West Valley High School (Yakima, Washington) and Pexco Aerospace (Union Gap, Washington) to highlight the advanced manufacturing opportunities in the Yakima Valley.
Economic Alliance Snohomish County offers regular webinar’s through their Coffee Chat’s series. The topic on August 17th was Leveraging Apprenticeships to Strengthen Your Workforce. Participants included Angie Sievers, Snohomish STEM; Seth Jacobsen (Sr. Manager, Apprenticeship and Career Development), ATS; Carey Schroyer (Dean of STEM) Edmonds College, Lynn Strickland & Erin Williams, AJAC.
Diversification of our programs to cross multiple industries through the intentional design has been pivotal. Workforce development is a part of economic development and if one industry is experiencing challenges, what other industries can apprentices “cross-over” into to use the skills and knowledge they have learned.
AJAC was asked how we adjusted during the pandemic including our shift from 30 face-to-face classes per quarter, utilizing 50 par-time instructors, to online learning. AJAC also spoke about Youth Apprenticeship, its challenges, and how employers came forward offering virtual tours, and writing letters of support of secure funding.
Lastly the discussion focused on how AJAC is serving Snohomish County residents through pre-apprenticeship training, continuing youth apprenticeship, and working with Workforce Snohomish on new grants to survey logistics-related needs of manufacturing employers.
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.
Take a tour of Machinist Inc in Seattle, Washington as the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) and Hazen High School (Renton School District) celebrate National Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) 2019. Students from Hazen High School received an insiders look at the products made by Machinists Inc and highlight the economic importance of manufacturing and draw attention to rewarding careers in the industry.
About MFG Day: There is an increasing demand for highly skilled professionals in the manufacturing sector who can design, program and operate technology. Over the next decade, manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs. Organized by The Manufacturing Institute—the education and workforce partner of the National Association of Manufacturers—MFG Day is designed to introduce young people and others in the community to the thriving manufacturing industry to change perceptions of manufacturing and highlight the high-tech and innovative companies that are solving tomorrow’s challenges today. More information is available at www.mfgday.com.
About Machinists Inc: Since 1941, Machinists Inc. of Seattle provides ISO 9001 certified metal fabrication, welding, CNC Machining, finishing, and assembly. They operate the largest precision machining shop in the Northwest and provide composite tooling, integrated systems, engineering, aerospace tooling, fabrication and welding, shaft turning, large machining, horizontal boring, 5-axis machining, inspection, finishing, and logistics. More information is available at https://www.machinistsinc.com/.