Robin Williams may not come back from the dead, but AJAC’s newest hire has a knack for bringing new programs to life. Meet Erin Williams, our new Snohomish County business developer extraordinaire!

What’s the best part of your job so far? I love the facility and shop tours from various advanced
manufacturing companies. Getting to see how the products are made and the machines our apprentices work on is fascinating.

If you could master one skill you don’t have right now, what would it be?
Playing guitar (or any musical instrument really). I wish I hadn’t given up back in high school, or thought that playing an instrument was cooler.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Be active. The best way to keep me active is to have a goal I am working towards such as a marathon, big bike race, triathlon, or fundraiser. That, and hang with my cat.

If you could bring one musician/actor back from the dead, who would it be and why?
Robin Williams. There is still so much to learn from that man. Such a loss of talent and awesomeness.

How would your best friend describe you?
Energetic, loyal, dedicated, and a little spastic.


The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, in partnership with the YWCA and South Seattle College hosted the first-ever Women in Manufacturing Symposium at South Seattle College – Georgetown Campus, highlighting the training and career opportunities available to women in advanced manufacturing.


AJAC’s Executive Director Lynn Strickland (left) and AJAC Machining Apprentice Ebonee Heller (right) of Pioneer Industries

The symposium was led by a panel of women who are involved or currently work in manufacturing, including career navigators, apprenticeships and industry managers. The panel fielded questions regarding the role of women in advanced manufacturing and how AJAC’s pre-apprenticeship program, the Manufacturing Academy (MA), can boost their confidence and provide job-ready skills for a rewarding career. AJAC’s MA utilizes a comprehensive approach to retraining workers through 10 weeks of hands-on learning, soft skills training, insight into the industry, and applied mathematics.

Donna Raz, Manufacturing Academy Instructor dsc_0220 dsc_0196

The panelists debunked every myth in manufacturing, from the “dark and dirty” shop floor to the applied shop math. The most frequent question asked during the symposium rested on the presumption that manufacturing poses barriers to women including their lack of transferable skills, “you have to get in there and take the extra step,” said Donna Raz, a Manufacturing Academy instructor. The days of mindless heavy-lifting have been replaced by innovative techniques and state-of-the-art technology which some say, women are a better fit for. “Women have better hand-eye coordination and attention to detail,” said one panelist. These skills are ideal for many careers in manufacturing such as Quality Assurance and Maintenance Technicians.

Women – welcome back to manufacturing

Nevertheless, a booming industry requires a well-trained workforce, but how can an industry that is historically represented by men challenge the status-quo that women can play a role in manufacturing?

For starters, the industry needs to focus on empowering women to try something new and bold that takes them out of their comfort zone. It’s no secret, local manufacturers want to hire more women, but very few apply.

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AJAC’s Technical Specialist, Teri Hegel demonstrates machining on a HAAS CNC VF 2 

Advocacy for women in manufacturing is key to creating a more diversified and well-balanced workforce. Through conversation and encouragement, manufacturing has a strong chance to continue its reign as America’s backbone. Take on the challenge of building something new every day and as one panelist said “women – welcome back to manufacturing.”

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What is your proudest career moment?
I worked on 1.5 million dollar grant that was awarded by OJJDP to Pioneer Human Services and JJRA to run a pilot AJAC Manufacturing Academy project to reach 75 incarcerated students in 2014 and give them tools and job skills before they were released from prison. 51% of the students that completed or graduated the program went on to get entry level jobs in the industry.

What is your favorite part about working in the non-profit industry?
I am able to collaborate with passionate people in the industry. I enjoy working with all types of people and thrive on the diversity everybody brings to the table. I have a heart for helping people get to the next level with their career or journey in life. I believe everybody deserves a second chance. I am passionate about today’s youth and mentoring them in the directions that they are passionate about.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love adventure of any kind, my biggest passion is kayaking and being on the water. In the summer, Ross Lake in the North Cascades is my favorite local destination. I was a kayak guide, naturalist, and fishing guide up in Southeast Alaska and enjoyed kayaking around humpback whales, seals, bears and glaciers with tourist during the summer.

If you could bring one musician back from the dead, who would it be and why?
Johnny Cash, because I have always wanted to see him live with June Carter. He was an innovator, even later in life he collaborated with many artist and made amazing music. I loved that he began performing concerts at prisons starting in the late 1950s. The Folsom State Prison Concert he performed, was a significant and historical performance that brought light on the prison population and was one of his best albums in my book.

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
Poached Halibut with a spring herb sauce or Smoked Salmon glazed with a brown sugar and cracked pepper. Literally these are the only two things I know how to make. Other than that I am helpless in the kitchen.

Meet the rest of AJAC’s team here


Join us for this forum and networking event introducing women to career and training opportunities in the exciting and dynamic field of advanced manufacturing. Hear from a panel of women working in the field and learn about the industries, employment and potential career pathways. Get expert advice on navigating college, career resources and apprenticeships.

Panelists include: Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), South Seattle College, General Plastics, and Orion Industries.

We will also introduce the partnership between the YWCA and AJAC for an all-female Manufacturing Academy cohort beginning October 17th!

Women in Manufacturing Symposium Flyer

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In 2012, the median age in manufacturing was nearly 45 years old, a number that is expected to rise continually over the next decade. An influx of young talent into the industry will undoubtedly offset the widening gap between baby boomers and millennials.

AJAC’s Training Agent, the Work Force Development Center, partners with 36 Snohomish, North King, and Island County high schools to provide structured on-the-job training for Washington State’s booming aerospace industry. Over the last 23 years, trainee’s at the center earn high school credits while preparing their skill set for a rewarding career in aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

AJAC recently sat down with two current employees – one apprentice and one recent high school graduate – to share their story on how manufacturing has bettered their lives while obtaining job-ready skills. Learn more about the Work Force Development Center here. Watch the short-film here: