State gets $20 million for aerospace training
Washington’s aerospace industry has been boosted by a $20 million federal grant that will help expand workforce training programs across the state.
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the grant to Air Washington, a group that includes 11 community colleges statewide, two aerospace training centers and the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee. Local workforce development councils on both sides of the Cascades also will share in the funding.
The money should help train between 800 and 1,150 new aerospace workers in the state, Air Washington estimates.
The grant formally will be announced at a press conference Friday in Seattle.
AJAC – which is a key part of Air Washington — is the state-funded apprenticeship committee that is strongly supported by Machinists Union District Lodge 751.
AJAC’s receiving about $1.1 million in federal funds. North and South Seattle community colleges, Spokane Community College, Everett Community College and Renton Technical College also will share in the grant.
“This is a game-changer,” said Laura Hopkins, a District 751 member who is now AJAC’s director. “A grant this big allows us to do the kinds of things we need to do to ensure Washington remains the best place in the world to build airplanes.”
AJAC plans to use the money on two important projects: standardizing curricula for Federal Aviation Administration airframe and powerplant training programs statewide, and also pursuing a plan to make Washington state the only place in North America where aircraft maintenance mechanics can receive training to meet European Aviation Safety Agency standards.
Standardizing the A&P licensing courses statewide should make it easier for District 751 members and other aerospace mechanics to get their FAA certification so they can pursue better jobs, Hopkins said.
And the EASA training program could open the doors to bring new work to Washington state.
In June, AJAC and Lufthansa Technical Training signed a memorandum of understanding to set up the one-of-kind EASA training program in Washington. Once Washington has a school training jet maintenance mechanics to meet the EASA standards, companies here will be able to bid on contracts to do repairs and overhauls on planes operated by overseas airlines.
District 751 Organizer Jesse Cote is chairman of AJAC’s board of directors. He praised everyone at Air Washington who worked on the grant, saying it will “provide Washington residents – including potentially some of our members – with new opportunities for good-paying aerospace careers.”
Machinists Union District President Tom Wroblewski agreed, saying it’s not enough for Washington state to be home to the largest aerospace cluster in the world.
“We also must ensure that we’re the best,” he said. “This grant will help do that, by ensuring that the next generation of Washington aerospace workers have the basic skills they’ll need to make Boeing, its suppliers — and any other company that comes here — successful for years to come.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents some 30,000 working men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, District 751 members used collective bargaining to reach contracts with 22 of those employers, without a single work day lost to strikes.
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