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.
On June 28, 2019, nearly 100 newly registered Youth Apprentices from across Washington State celebrated the beginning of their apprenticeship at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. Signing Day brought together Washington State’s newest Youth Apprentices, their hiring employers and elected officials to celebrate a new opportunity for students to develop technical skills and valuable work experience for the state’s most robust industries.
Students signed their letters of intent along with new employers—signifying their commitment to start and complete a registered apprenticeship before they graduate high school. The 100 Youth Apprentices represented 12 school districts to work in a variety of industries including aerospace, advanced manufacturing, automotive, and culinary.
All Youth Apprentices during their program will receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training totaling up to $28,000, tuition free college classes, and valuable work experience—fast-tracking their careers in high-demand industries at the age of 16.
About Youth Apprenticeship: Youth Apprenticeship transforms how education systems prepare young people to enter careers and launch into adulthood through mutually beneficial partnerships across schools, industry, and communities. These partnerships create opportunities for young people to finish high school, start their post-secondary education at little-to-no cost, complete paid work experience alongside a mentor, and start along a path that broadens their options for the future.
It’s six in the morning at Tool Gauge, a Tacoma, Washington manufacturer that creates complex, high-quality plastic and metal parts and assemblies for the global aerospace industry. In walks a bright-eyed 18 year old woman as she has done for the last two years.
She moseys past a cascading waterfall in the lobby and through as set of doors to the engineering lab. On the other side of a soundproof window is a state of-the-art machine shop with the latest technology used to create precision machined parts.
She clocks in, changes into her work clothes, grabs her hat and boots, and walks over to her five axis computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine to manufacturer Inconel bushings and plastic parts for the aerospace industry. She has an order of 200 bushings to complete before her shift ends and first high school class begins.
Raquel Taijito isn’t here on accident or by chance. She has no family or friends who gave her an in with the company.
She was hired at 16 years old as a registered Youth Apprentice through a partnership with Tool Gauge and the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC).
Raquel isn’t a run-of-the-mill employee. As a Youth Apprentice, she receives one-on-one mentorship with the company’s most skilled workers while rotating around different departments, equipment, and processes.
As a young girl, Raquel had a knack for using her hands and creativity to make things come to life, “I knew I liked to build things. When I was a little girl I used to love to play with Legos and it would be all these funky designs, but I remember just enjoying building and designing my own stuff,” Taijito said.
Her favorite creation with Legos? A six passenger car.
“One of them was a car I built, and I was so proud of it because I managed to fit six passengers in it, and it was a four-wheel drive with I think it was about two inches and six inches long, and it was actually functional and it wasn’t a really crappy design. It was something I was actually proud of,” Taijito said. “My mom actually gave me the idea. Hey, you should go into engineering,” she added.
Mothers are always right.
Sophomore year at Stadium High School, Raquel’s engineering design teacher encouraged her to enroll in AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship program as a Production Technician. The structured training, competitive wage, and college credits certainly enticed her to become involved. After submitting an application and completing two separate interviews, Raquel was hired at Tool Gauge and subsequently became the first woman as a registered Youth Apprentice in aerospace.
“Through the apprenticeship, I do make money. It’s on-the-job training. I learn while I earn. It’s not an internship where I don’t get paid at all. No, I get paid, and every 500 hours I get a pay raise,” Taijito explained.
The apprenticeship is more than training, it provides a foundation for young adults to quickly mature and grow within a profession they already have an interest in.
“AJAC does a great job when they go to these high schools and they start talking to kids. They’re only getting the ones who are interested in doing the work,” said Clint Folyer, Operations Manager at Tool Gauge. “The youth apprenticeship classes are in the evening. Raquel is able to go to class at night and she learns things at school and is able to come in the very next day and apply those things in an actual job setting,” Folyer continued.
Fast forward to 2019. Raquel successfully completed her two-year AJAC Youth Apprenticeship at Tool Gauge and will attend two graduations and earn two certificates—her high school diploma and a journeywoman’s credential as a Production Technician.
Raquel’s growth didn’t come easy. Each apprentice’s learning style is unique but with growth comes confidence in their skill set. “It gave me some confidence in terms of my abilities. The only person that is going to hold me back is just my mind, but I know that if I do push myself to whatever extent I need to, I know I can do it. It pushed me how to work alone and with others,” she explained. “The program pushed me to ask more questions because initially, I had a hard time asking questions or asking for help in certain areas. Knowing that I can do it, I became more confident in my abilities over time.”
The core OJT competencies in AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship program puts a strong emphasis on manual machining, particularly useful for a company such as Tool Gauge that makes one-off parts for The Boeing Company. “At first I was scared to go near it, because I thought I was going to blow something up. I have my mistakes and that’s just part of learning,” Taijito said. “Particularly with the lathe, I have the most trouble in terms of figuring out the RPM’s and the surface speed. I really do enjoy manual machining on the mill.”
To better help apprentices understand skills used in industry, class projects are designed using curriculum from AJAC’s adult apprenticeship program. “One of my favorite projects was AJAC’s C clamp. It was pretty stressful, but figuring out the offsets and picking up my starting point with the edge finder was pretty cool,” Taijito exclaimed.
In 2020, Raquel will enroll as a freshman at St. Martins University with a goal to pursue aeronautical engineering. Her childhood dream of building things with her own imagination will soon be a reality.
“My dream is not actually owning a shop but it’s being a part of a company where I can design aerospace parts—something that deals with NASA or satellites. That’s my ultimate goal.”
As for her remaining time at Tool Gauge—Raquel still shows up five days a week at six in the morning, just as eager to learn and produce quality aerospace parts as she did two years ago.
Over the last year, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee has partnered with the Northwest Automotive Service Association and Independent Technicians Automotive Committee (ITAC) to council and guide their new General Service Technician Youth Apprenticeship program.
Through this partnership, AJAC strategically advised ASA NW on how to develop their own apprenticeship committee (Independent Technician Automotive Committee) while meeting the state’s guidelines and variance’s for allowing youth to work at an independent automotive repair shop.
Additionally, AJAC was tasked to develop engaging marketing materials and messaging to excite the new generation of automotive technicians. Why did this industry feel a need to hire youth? The answer will not surprise you—there is a dire need for younger workers in the industry.
“It’s no surprise that our industry has experienced a shortage of skilled technicians,” said Butch Jobst, chair of the Independent Technician Automotive Committee. “ASA Northwest recognized the need for shops to have a system to onboard and train those that were interested in entering our industry. This program provides the much needed bridge between schools and the workplace.”
Washington State has a large number of industries that need the similar skill sets as Automotive Repair Technician causing a very competitive environment for that segment of the skilled workforce. Furthermore Washington State has many high school and college level automotive training programs that need a place to send their students. Due to the explosion of technology that has taken place in the last 20 years, the students that graduate need a program to help get them prepare for the workplace.
To learn more about the Independent Technicians Automotive Committee (ITAC) registered General Service Technician Youth Apprenticeship program, view their new brochure.
New Video Provides a Cinematic Look at Registered Youth Apprenticeship in Washington State.
SEATTLE, WA-Washington State Governor Jay Inslee calls it the “supply train for the supply chain”. Aerospace and advanced manufacturing employers see it as a competitive advantage for pipeline development. High school students use it to gain real-world skills while earning a paycheck and college credits. Youth Apprenticeship’s benefits may be endless, but its story is just beginning.
The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), now in its tenth year, has partnered with the emerging online educational platform, Edge Factor to develop new Youth Apprenticeship resources for rich, engaging content that can be used statewide with school districts, employers, and students across the country.
Edge Factor works with communities across North America to inspire and build pipelines of talent entering specific industry sectors. Their workforce development experts and storytellers provide regional solutions to national challenges. In short, Edge Factor produces cinematic stories with accompanying resources and delivers this content through the online Edge Factor Suit platform.
“In every community we work in, we want to infuse the local flavor of the region into our library of tools,” said Jeremy Bout, Found of Edge Factor. “By partnering with AJAC, we are bringing the Edge Factor film crew to film in Washington, meeting local businesses, and organizations. We will be filming real people, in real aerospace jobs, highlighting local career opportunities.”
Edge Factor’s strong focus on career and technical education raises awareness about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) career pathways. One pathway Edge Factor wanted to bring into focus was registered apprenticeships, specifically for the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries.
“One of the most impactful engagement tools is a good story. Edge Factor has a remarkable ability to tell compelling stories connecting businesses, educators, students, parents and workforce developers in an effort to build communities,” said Demetria “Lynn” Strickland, Executive Director of AJAC. “AJAC currently partners with 34 employers employing 75 Youth Apprentices who come from a wide array of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. We are thrilled to have this new partnership unveil the impact a registered Youth Apprenticeship program can have on communities and the advanced manufacturing industry.”
AJAC’s registered Youth Apprenticeship program grew nearly 200% in 2018. That growth creates a greater demand for career connected opportunities like registered apprenticeship for youth and partnering with Edge Factor will provide AJAC with more tools to encourage future employers and apprentices to become a participant in a registered apprenticeship program to positively impact their communities.
Additionally, Edge Factor spoke with six employers in various regions to help future businesses understand the full scope of the Youth Apprenticeship program, including its pipeline development, teen worker safety, community impact and competitive advantage.
“It is important to show these apprentices in the work environment to clearly communicate what kind of responsibility and job tasks they are capable of safely doing,” said Clint Folyer, Operations Manager at Tacoma-based manufacturer Tool Gauge. “Our experience working with AJAC and Edge Factor to tell Raquel’s story was a great experience. We look forward to working with both AJAC and Edge Factor again in the future.”
A healthy community ecosystem where education and businesses, parents and students are all speaking to each other is the catalyst to expanding apprenticeship opportunities in Washington State. Through these new cinematic experiences, future employers and apprentices can better engage with the state’s fastest growing registered apprenticeship program.
To learn more about AJAC’s registered Youth Apprenticeship Program, please visit: https://www.ajactraining.org/youth/
Miss our 2018 Youth Apprenticeship Signing Day Ceremony? Watch our recap here: https://www.ajactraining.org/youth-apprentice/youth-press-and-media/
AJAC is an industry-driven apprenticeship organization, founded on the belief that mastery occurs on the job. Through pre-apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and adult apprenticeship, all people have the opportunity to earn competitive wages, find meaningful and fulfilling work, and pursue lifelong learning.
AJAC currently partners with over 250 aerospace and advanced manufacturing companies in Washington State serving nearly 400 apprentices state-wide each year.