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.