Connect to training – and employers hungry for new talent – in advanced manufacturing. For Trudie Dole, the pandemic has a silver lining.
She’d been interested in the AJAC Manufacturing Academy for over a year, but as a single mother of four it was hard to fit the classes into her schedule. Then her retail job was deemed nonessential and AJAC moved classes online, and Dole jumped at the opportunity.
“It was a pretty big challenge, having four kids at home and all of us doing remote learning! But even with the pandemic I was able to learn all sorts of new skills and get a job in the aerospace industry.”
A year ago Dole was looking for a change — she’d recently committed to sobriety, and after a friend introduced her to some manufacturing concepts and machines she decided she’d like to work at Boeing. She applied for a variety of entry-level positions, but her resume needed a boost. That’s when she heard about the programs at the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee.
“There are programs and scholarships to help people like me retrain and find better opportunities. I didn’t have a perfect past, but I’ve dealt with that issue and AJAC still welcomed me,” she says, encouraging others to consider advanced manufacturing. “There’s more out there than just retail and the food and beverage industry.”
It’s shortly after 8 o’clock in the morning on a farm outside of Tacoma, Washington. Summer has ended and the mornings have become brisk with a layer of fog blanketing the ground. The outside temperature feels like a typical fall day in the Pacific Northwest, but inside each greenhouse, temperatures can reach nearly 85 degrees.
Just outside the greenhouse, 12 youth participating in AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy pre-apprenticeship program convene in an open building to learn their assignments for the day. These young men typically spend each weekday learning advanced manufacturing skills as they transition back to civilian life. Today—they are giving back to the communities who helped raise them.
Since 2017, AJAC has partnered with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families’ Juvenile Rehabilitation program, Pac Mountain WDC and Bates Technical College to offer incarcerated youth an opportunity to develop industry-relevant skills for advanced manufacturing including precision measuring, blueprint reading, intro to machining, metallurgy, composites, and math for manufacturing. Upon completion of the program, JR students have certifications in OSHA-10, First-Aid/CPR, Lean Manufacturing, Forklift, and Flagger, and earn up to 32 college credits through Bates Technical College.
The AJAC Members have expressed enjoying connecting with the environment, contributing to the community, and having an opportunity to learn job skills
Beginning in 2020, a new partnership with Franklin Pierce School District is further enhancing the MA program by teaching life skills and the importance of giving back at The Farm, the District’s 8-acre outdoor education site located in the suburbs of Tacoma that includes wetland and native restoration planting areas, an orchard, and 2 acres of vegetables. Experience at The Farm complements what the young men are learning about manufacturing through the development of critical leadership and teamwork skills by donating to their local community and providing for those in need.
Aaron Gibson, The Farm’s Program Assistant, works with the JR students each Thursday to harvest produce and plant new crops for the upcoming season.
“Working with the AJAC Crew has been great! They are motivated, engaged, and curious. With the help of the AJAC Crew the Farm has been able to flourish and feed numerous families this fall,” Gibson said. “The partnership has been mutually beneficial. The AJAC Members have expressed enjoying connecting with the environment, contributing to the community, and having an opportunity to learn job skills. The Farm has received a competent and reliable work crew that has allowed us to continue production and feed the community.”
Derek Jones, AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy Instructor, appreciates the opportunity for these young men to learn life skills on their road out of incarceration, “I am incredibly proud of these young men for going outside of their comfort zone to learn something they have never experienced before. Although we are here to train students for careers in advanced manufacturing, this program is more than skill development—its about developing these men to become lifelong, productive members of society. There is no better place to start than right here at The Farm. Not only are they learning how to work together as a team and independently, but produce something with their hands that will go on to help families and communities in need. It’s a win-win for them and the people we are serving here in Tacoma,” Jones said.
To learn more about the Manufacturing Academy, please visit our website.
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.”