Beginning in 2014, AJAC partnered with the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to provide a 12-week pre-apprenticeship training to incarcerated young men living in a DCYF transitional living facility in Tacoma, WA.
The success of the DCYF partnership in Tacoma provided a blueprint for a pre-apprenticeship program design for opportunity youth, with funds from the Aspen Institute’s “Pathways to Careers”, provided critical capacity building and instructional support for AJAC to work with partners including Federal Way Public Schools, the Boys & Girls Club of King County, the YMCA Social Impact Center, and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (WDC).
The Boys & Girls Club’s EX3 Teen Center in Federal Way was identified as a training location for opportunity youth associated with Federal Way Public School’s Truman Campus, which hosts two alternative high school programs, Open Doors at Truman and Career Academy at Truman, as well as the Internet Academy for grades K-12.
Over the last two years, AJAC has partnered with Federal Way Public School’s Truman Campus and the Federal Way Boys & Girls Club to offer AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy to FWPS students looking to explore different career paths and interests. AJAC’s 10-week pre-apprenticeship program covered technical skill development in shop math, blueprint reading, and precision measurement. Students also earned industry-recognized certifications in forklift, OSHA-10, CPR/First-Aid, and lean manufacturing.
Upon completion of the 10-week program, students will not only leave with technical manufacturing skills, but soft skills that can increase their chances of employability. AJAC’s instructors teach students how to work independently and in teams, how to develop an effective resume, and how to dress and act appropriately in the workplace.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of King County’s teen employment program, YouthForce, handled case management for the students through the Workforce Innovative and Opportunity Act (WIOA). “This program right here gets them a well-rounded approach to the workforce. They’re well-prepared. You’re not just getting manufacturing skills. You’re getting on-the job-skills, too,” said Brian Maina, Program Manager at Youth Force. “I see more responsible young people in my community, after going through programs like this, that essentially could expose youth to those jobs or opportunities that, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been exposed to were not for AJAC.”
To capitalize on the skills learned in class, AJAC works with its network of 300 advanced manufacturing employers to identify internship opportunities for students who wish to apply their knowledge of the trades to a real-world environment. Not only will students earn a weekly stipend by participating in the Manufacturing Academy program, but can continue to earn additional income through structured internships at local companies.
“I just see kids that are excited, excited about the outlook of what’s out there. It’s not just law school or medical school,” said Brian. “There’s trades that can be done and be a responsible young person that can provide for themselves and their families.”
To learn more about the Manufacturing Academy, please visit: https://www.ajactraining.org/apprenticeship/pre-apprenticeships/
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.
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.