Aurelia Greene says she started at the bottom of the barrel, but she didn’t stay there long.
She was working in home care before her son was born, but the 16-hour shifts weren’t compatible with a newborn. So she looked for something new.
She liked working with her hands and had thrived in her high school’s auto body program, so when she heard about an entry-level operator position in Washington’s booming advanced manufacturing industry, she signed up.
“It turns out I had a knack for it, and I started working my way up,” she says.
The hours are great for spending afternoons with her son, and the pay is much better than what she’d earned in home care. Her co-workers supported her as she learned new skills, and eventually her supervisors recommended the AJAC Machinist Apprenticeship Program. AJAC combines college-level classroom instruction with paid on-the-job training to prepare Washington’s next generation of highly skilled manufacturing workers.
“I’m a little older so I felt like I was a bit behind, and the apprenticeship program has been a great way to catch up,” Greene says.
Putting the pieces together
Greene started as an operator and was skilled at specific tasks, but she didn’t have a sense of the bigger picture. Taking classes from industry professionals during the apprenticeship filled in the gaps.
“It helped me make sense of the things I was learning in the shop. I went from being just an operator to understanding the machine movements, terminology and code.”
Even though women are underrepresented, Greene says she’s felt welcome and supported everywhere she’s worked.
“You have to show you’re interested. If you want to learn, they’re ready to teach you,” she says, and taking the apprenticeship program has given her the knowledge and skills to keep growing. She’s completed her classroom work now, and is building up her apprenticeship hours at Quality Stamping and Machining, a Sumner, Washington shop that manufactures aerospace and defense parts.
“I’m really happy where I am — this shop has given me every opportunity, and it’s a really good crew that’s helped me grow,” she says. “One day I might want to open my own shop. I’m also considering taking the programming apprenticeship at AJAC. I’ve met a lot of inspiring young women through the program.”
Washington State has a strong advanced manufacturing industry, and Greene loves the flexible schedule and great earning potential.
“There are so many opportunities!”