Partnership helps residents train for aerospace jobs

ENUMCLAW — Adults and teenagers alike who live in the Enumclaw area now have opportunities to train for careers in the aerospace industry, thanks to a partnership that includes the Machinists Union.

EnumclawPicThe partners – including the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, which is strongly supported by Machinists Union District Lodge 751 – celebrated the launch of the new aerospace machining shop at Enumclaw High School on  Sept. 24.

During the day, Enumclaw High School students will learn how to operate the basic machines used by workers in the aerospace industry. They’ll train on new machines purchased by AJAC, using federal grant money, and on others donated by local companies.

Then at night, more than two dozen aerospace apprentices working at manufacturing companies in Enumclaw and Black Diamond will train on the machines, as they prepare to move up from entry level work to become journeyman machinists who are masters at their trade.

The combination will help meet the high demand for workers with the skills aerospace companies need, said Laura Hopkins, who is AJAC’s executive director and a member of District 751.

“It’s huge,” she said. “You say anything about having experience and employers are jumping on you. They can’t find anybody with experience.”

This is AJAC’s second such partnership. The first launched in Arlington last year.

The Enumclaw partnership came together over the past 12 months. It grew out of a basic need: There are 26 apprentices working for Enumclaw-area companies through AJAC, but until now they’ve had to go to either Renton or Tacoma to do their classroom training at night.

At the same time, the machining shops at Renton Technical College and Bates Technical College in Tacoma were stuffed to the seams with workers training for aerospace and other manufacturing jobs.

The obvious solution: Create a new training shop in Enumclaw to serve both local apprentices and high school students.

“This machine shop will enable us to grow our business,” said Harry Logan, the human resources director at Helac, an Enumclaw manufacturer that fabricates actuators used in solar power areas, heavy construction equipment and military vehicles. “It’s really important for us to train people.”

Enumclaw School Board member Corey Cassell – himself a journeyman machinist — agreed.

“Manufacturing employers are desperate for the kinds of skills our students will gain through this program,” he said.

Trevor Sawyer, an Enumclaw High School grad now working as an apprentice at Hill Aerospace, said that along with the job skills he’s gained, he’s also learned that he will “always have a stable job.”

“There’s good pay,” he told the crowd at the ceremony. “We will always need parts, whether it’s for replacements or new parts.”

The training partnerships in Enumclaw and Arlington are likely to be followed by more, said Jesse Cote, the District 751 staff member who is AJAC’s executive director.

They’re essential if Washington is to maintain its global leadership in aerospace, Cote said.

“This is where the workforce is,” he said. “Wherever you go in the world, they compare themselves to Puget Sound, and there’s a reason why: We got it and they want it.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 33,000 working men and women at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

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