Union supports tax breaks for apprenticeships

OLYMPIA — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 supports legislation that would grant aerospace companies a break on their state taxes in return for hiring new apprentices.

House Bill 1682, which was introduced on Friday, would provide a $5,000 B&O tax credit, spread over two years, for companies that hire apprentices through state-approved apprenticeship programs like the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee.

If approved, the tax break would be capped at $500,000 – not a huge bite out of state funds, but enough to put 100 people to work as aerospace apprentices at companies statewide.

The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Tim Probst of Vancouver, a Democrat. Co-sponsors are Democratic Reps. Mike Sells of Everett, Hans Dunshee of Snohomish and Chris Hurst of Enumclaw, and Republican Rep. Judy Warnick of Moses Lake.  

The measure “reinforces our No. 1 competitive advantage: a highly skilled aerospace manufacturing workforce,” said Larry Brown, the District 751 Legislative Director, who worked with legislators to draft language for the bill.

“This state has the largest aerospace cluster in the world, but there are other regions throughout the world trying to attract these jobs,” he continued. “This would help ensure we maintain our competitive advantage, with the largest, most highly skilled aerospace workforce in the world.”

Machinists Union leaders say apprenticeships offer significant benefits to Washington aerospace companies, to people interested in aerospace careers – and to the industry statewide. State taxpayers would also benefit, in that the bill aims to put 100 people to work, earning wages and paying taxes.

Like college students, most apprentices take between three and five years to complete their course of hands-on and classroom training. But unlike college students, apprentices don’t have to go into debt to gain jobs skills; instead, they are paid an apprentice-level wage as they learn.

Once they graduate, they earn full journey-level wages, which average $53,000 a year, plus benefits, according to the most-recent data from the Washington State Workforce Education and Training Coordinating Board.

For companies, apprenticeships offer them a chance to tailor the training new employees receive, giving new employees both hands-on and theoretical training in the skills they’ll need to succeed at their new companies.

And for Washington’s aerospace industry, apprenticeships offer an opportunity to transfer the decades of hard-won knowledge held by soon-to-retire manufacturing workers to the next generation, thus retaining the state’s industry leadership.

“The average age of Washington aerospace workers is 49,” Brown said. “Our region has a five to 10-year window to transfer the knowledge of the current aerospace workforce.”

The proposed bill would help with all that by making it less costly for aerospace companies to hire apprentices, Brown said.

“The apprenticeship training system helps generate additional jobs while taking advantage of the tremendous depth of experienced aerospace workers in the state,” he said. “It will produce master aerospace technicians, who will in turn provide on-the-job training for future employees, and those who have received less comprehensive training.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., Seattle-based Machinists District Lodge 751 now represents more than 26,000 working men and women at 44 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, it negotiated contracts with 22 of those employers without a single workday lost to strikes.

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2 Responses to “Union supports tax breaks for apprenticeships”
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  1. […] story explaining the union’s support in Olympia for a new bill that would give aeropace companies a tax break in return for hiring […]

  2. […] and focused. The union is also working with the Washington Legislature on a bill that would provide tax breaks for companies that hire apprentices through AJAC or similar […]

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