AJAC’s ‘Manufacturing Academy’ Goes Full-Throttle With ‘Earn While You Learn’ Model


Internships can be a grueling yet necessary step most of us endure before we are accepted in the working world. In manufacturing, internships are far-and-few between – but one program in Auburn, Washington is transforming the way this industry builds its pipeline – one student at a time.

The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) recently launched it’s first Auburn Manufacturing Academy cohort in spring 2016. This pilot program includes five weeks of classroom instruction and eight weeks of paid on-the-job training for displaced workers striving to work in one of Washington State’s most vital industries – aerospace and advanced manufacturing.

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Grant Oliver, one of the first students to enroll, quickly went out of his comfort zone after accepting his slot in the program. “For the first time in my life, I gave up certain expectations; my right to understand just how it would turn out or the best way to get there.” Grant’s leap of faith from unemployment to manufacturing came easier than expected, “After being unemployed a few months, the new normal; five days a week plus homework.  My instructor said, ‘this is your full-time job’.  Although I possessed that work ethic, it was valuable advice and I appreciated that AJAC’s high expectations were clearly communicated.”

The five weeks quickly ended and Grant was placed at Skills Inc. whom agreed to offer eight-weeks of paid on-the-job training. Grant accepted this position and soon-there-after began his journey in manufacturing, “one overall supervisor was designated for the three of us at Skills.  He put each of us in a different area each of the first four weeks.  He introduced us to a Supervisor who in turn chose a mentor with whom we job-shadowed.”

I’m thankful I took this chance on myself to participate

Grant’s mentors led by example from his time in Quality Assurance Dimensional Inspection, Assembly, CNC Machining and Sheet Metal. “In every area I was treated with respect.  As we interacted with persons in all sorts of roles…I began to recognize the extraordinarily high quality of individuals throughout the company,” Grant concluded.  Skills Inc., a nonprofit social enterprise, has created and maintained a stable, rewarding place of work for decades. Their commitment to helping individuals succeed, even those who are still learning the trade, offer life-changing opportunities for individuals such as Grant.

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Grant never fell into the trap of discouragement or impatience. His instructors, mentors, and most importantly, his fellow interns and now employees stuck with him throughout the journey. After his paid on-the-job training, Grant was offered a full-time position at Skills Inc. as a Receiving Inspector, “my ardent hope is that any individual considering to participate in this program…will take the chance.  I’m thankful I took this chance on myself to participate.”


Grant, like many others, found a new hope through AJAC’s Auburn Manufacturing Academy program, “Don’t let a shadow of a doubt creep in,” Grant said. “Give of yourself to soak up every bit of learning presented to you.  It’s all pertinent to the type of work you will soon be doing.” Since his graduation from the Manufacturing Academy program, Grant has excelled at Skills Inc., taking advantage of every new opportunity. In the coming years, Grant has aspirations to begin an apprenticeship and build off his breadth of manufacturing knowledge, and for the second time in his life, he will take a new leap of faith.


Aaron Ferrell, August 29, 2016


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