Meet LaDante Weems—a formerly incarcerated youth and now graduate of the AJAC Juvenile Rehabilitation Manufacturing Academy program—tells his story on becoming a full-time employee at Tech Marine. We at AJAC are so proud of how far LaDante has come since his incarnation and wish him nothing but continued success in his future.
AJAC is launching a new Manufacturing Academy program in Federal Way through a partnership with the Federal Way Boys & Girls Club, Truman High School and a grant from Aspen Institute’s Pathways to Careers Fund. The Manufacturing Academy (MA) is an apprenticeship preparation program that has been offered in South Seattle and Kent prior to this latest addition.
Boys and Girls Club Youth Force Executive Director Melissa Jones is excited about the partnership and the prospects that come with it. “We believe positive youth development is a collective effort that cannot be solved by a single person, organization or company alone. That’s why it’s imperative to collaborate with others in our community to provide comprehensive programming and employment opportunities for our youth.” When asked what the goal of the new initiative is, Jones says, “Our hope is to provide an alternative career path allowing youth who choose not to pursue higher education the ability to earn a living wage.”
The Manufacturing Academy’s purpose is to give students the information, skills, and certifications needed to begin their careers in advanced manufacturing. Derek Jones, the instructor for the course, says the class is a great opportunity to give your resume the boost it needs, “The hardest part about starting a new career is getting your foot in the door. The Manufacturing Academy gives people who are willing to learn a real opportunity to change their lives.”
The newest MA addition in Federal Way will allow its students to gain access to machinery and equipment used in the industry while developing industry skills in blueprint reading, precision measurement, soldering, LEAN manufacturing, and resume development.
Chris Pierson, Director of Grants and Strategic Partnerships with AJAC, says the expansion to Federal Way is a fantastic way to cultivate growth. “AJAC is committed to diversifying talent pipelines to our employer partners and developing more equitable pathways into apprenticeship. We have been working with all of our partners to strengthen pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship pathways for youth through initiatives such as Generation Work, Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship, and other related initiatives.”
The first cohort started class, January 13, 2020, with 15 students enrolled.
The Wells Fargo Foundation, established in the U.S. as a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 1980, is the company’s primary philanthropic funding arm. In 2018, the foundation donated nearly half a billion dollars to 11,000 nonprofit organizations, including the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC).
AJAC is also a non-profit 501(c)(3) that provides registered apprenticeship training to adult workers and high school youth, and a pre-apprenticeship training program (Manufacturing Academy), which prepares job seekers for employment and apprenticeship opportunities across the state of Washington in the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries. Students who enroll in AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy (MA) are looking to kick start their future by attaining a full-time job and continued career training through AJAC’s available apprenticeship programs leading to sustainable income, and some semblance of financial freedom. A new partnership between Wells Fargo and AJAC provides more than just manufacturing training to help students get closer to their goals.
Dwight J. Prevo, Vice President of Wells Fargo’s Community Relations West Region, spoke about the importance of learning financial literacy skills, especially for individuals starting new career paths. Prevo states, “As the majority of AJAC participants will start career opportunities that provide wages, providing financial education is a way to ensure that recipients of the instruction understand how money works, and how to effectively utilize money as a way to accomplish their short and long term objectives.”\
Local Wells Fargo team members use the Wells Fargo At WorkSM program to help AJAC apprentices establish healthy financial habits and achieve greater financial stability and success. The program also allows students to participate in financial health webinars and conversations with a phone banker on topics like budgeting, saving, or strengthening credit. Wells Fargo’s free, non-commercial Hands on Banking program is an additional resource with a bevy of interactive financial wellness courses. Students enrolled in MA will receive the one-hour training twice a month for the duration of the program and learn skills ranging from basic finance to managing more advanced financial resources. Zuleima Flores, a summer graduate from AJAC’s Kent Manufacturing Academy, explained the class “was a great time to reflect on pursuing a career and one day owning my own home.”
Lynn Strickland, Executive Director of AJAC, feels a responsibility for educators to take students future into consideration, “AJAC’s goal is to help people prepare for a prosperous future and through our partnership with Wells Fargo, students will now be more prepared to make healthy financial decisions on their pathway to apprenticeship.”
When you walk into AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy at South Seattle College-Georgetown Campus the first thing you’ll notice is the intimidating computer numerical controlled (CNC) and manual machines scattered around the classroom, the second thing you notice is a group of students operating these machines.
Geoff Coles-Lelievre guides one of his fellow students on a Sharpe VS 1640 Conventional Lathe, giving him little pieces of advice while still letting him take the reins on the operation. It’s hard to imagine that just eight weeks ago Coles-Lelievre had never operated a machine like this and now, is well on his way to a career in manufacturing.
Geoff is thriving in the program, making parts with precision, leading by example, and tutoring his classmates. Geoff explains that the reason for his success is the focused nature of the program, saying “Having a program that’s focus is to get you into an entry level position is different from my experiences at a traditional university. Traditionally, you have a lot of prerequisites that aren’t directly related to what your major is. Sometimes that distracts or gets in the way of what you want to do.”
Geoff is self-described as “mechanically inclined” and has a background as an automotive technician. He has benefited greatly from the hands on approach the Manufacturing Academy provides, “Some people learn better by going in there and getting their hands dirty and doing things instead of being told how to do it.”
“There is so much material to cover over the ten weeks but there’s so many opportunities once you get out into the manufacturing field that the only way to go from here is up. There is just so many options after you get this training, it’s like ‘where do you want to go, you can work for anyone.’”
While the ten week program may seem brief, instructor Troy Ironmonger says the amount students learn makes the program invaluable for someone who wants to start a career in manufacturing. “We touch on blueprint reading, precision measuring, conventional and CNC machining, physics, electricity, hydraulics, pneumatics, we learn how to draw, we apply that to CNC machining and CNC laser cutting and by the end of ten weeks we are producing industrial maintenance technician students and machine operators.”
Geoff is set to graduate from the program in late August and hopes to take what he has learned to the advanced manufacturing industry, hopefully manufacturing parts for rockets and satellites, “this is a field where it’s easy to get a career and not just a job.”