An AJAC Youth Apprentice working in the fabrication shop at Sierra Pacific Industries

Forest to Future: Sierra Pacific Industries' Apprenticeship Investment

Written By Jacquelin Earley, Workforce Development Coordinator at Sierra Pacific Industries

Jacquelin Earley

A Need to Proactively Invest in Our Next Generation of Employees

Jacquelin Earley (pictured above) is the Workforce Development Coordinator at Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) in Shelton, Washington. SPI began working with AJAC in May 2022 through a partnership with the Elma School District to offer our Youth Apprenticeship program to high school juniors and seniors. 



Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is a third-generation family-owned forest products company based in Anderson, CA.  Over the years, SPI has grown to span beyond California while simultaneously becoming a leader in vertically integrated lumber and window manufacturing, including opening a fourth site in Shelton, Washington comprised of a state-of-the-art sawmill and supporting fabrication shop.

Just as technological advancements in the manufacturing process increased our demand for skilled workers, we found that a generation of technicians and millwrights were retiring. One of SPI’s founding principles is that an employee might be hired for a job, but they can grow into a career. This is a belief and conviction that has served us well for over half a decade, but as fewer job seekers were entering manufacturing, we realized that we needed to do more.

SPI continues to value our “grow with us,” philosophy, while also acknowledging the need to proactively invest in our next generation of employees. This is why SPI became an employer partner with Elma High School and AJAC to provide youth apprenticeship opportunities in our fabrication division.

AJAC stepped in with expertise and professionalism supporting us through the process. The staff provided guidance and direction as we began to outline what our apprenticeship would look like. AJAC did all the work! They had the paperwork ready, knew the regulations, and even supplied training for our mentors working with the students. If we had questions, AJAC was there with answers.

As an employer, hiring the right individuals for our career pathways is important, and we retained that ability while still participating in the program. Each student candidate toured the worksite, met with staff to learn about the opportunities offered before interviewing. This program is competitive, and it was apparent that the students were determined to be successful. Our first year we hired and trained three apprentices and celebrated when they graduated high school.   

Youth Apprenticeship at Sierra Pacific Industries

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SPI is one of three employer partners working with AJAC and Elma High School the first year and in total the program hosted five youth apprenticeships. All five Elma High School students that started together are still all working, earning, and learning even after graduation. SPI is proud to say we are now training our second cohort of students.

SPI chose to partner with the AJAC program not only to help upskill students into our career paths, but also to invest in the reginal workforce skills gap. We know that all our students might not stay for lifelong careers and that is okay. The goal is to improve awareness of our occupations, industry, and provide valuable training to interested students. Youth apprenticeship proactively and strategically addresses many of our current workforce challenges and AJAC has been an essential partner. Together with Elma High School, our three organizations support and encourage success in our student apprenticeships.  

The program is a win-win for everyone involved. The student learns at a local employer while earning high school and college credit and the hours may be transferable to an adult apprenticeship program after completion. The students earn income and gain skills through mentorship and hands-on training.

Elma High School wins by offering career exploration opportunities that will help launch their students into high-demand, high wage employment here in our own community. Elma has been a leader in understanding students who deserve various pathways for learning, and they have done an excellent job preparing their students for the workforce.

And finally, we as an employer win.  We have the opportunity to learn from these students just as they are learning from us. The value added to our shop is not only in production, but also knowing that we are investing in our future success. We are grateful for the partnership we have with AJAC and encourage other employers to consider providing youth apprenticeships in their communities.

Thank you, 

Jacquelin Earley

Workforce Development Coordinator

Sierra Pacific Industries