AJAC launches state’s first youth apprenticeships

TACOMA — The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee has worked with other state and local agencies to launch the first youth apprenticeship program for high school students in Washington.

ajacteensThe program is being offered to Tacoma students aged 16 or 17, giving them the opportunity to train for jobs in aerospace and other advanced manufacturing fields.

Students will have the opportunity to complete 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training while they complete their high school educations.

“This is a great opportunity for students in Tacoma to learn the skills they’ll need to move into family-wage jobs after graduation,” said Jesse Cote, the IAM 751 staff member who is AJAC’s chairman.

Machinists Union District Lodge 751 is a strong supporter of AJAC, and played a key role in its formation in 2008.

For the youth apprenticeships, AJAC partnered with the Tacoma School District, Bates Technical College and the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, which approved the plans to establish on-the-job training programs with limited hours and appropriate work assignments for teens.

Interviews for the first class are underway. Cote said the goal is to expand over time through partnerships with more school districts and community colleges statewide.

With Baby Boomers now at retirement age, industry experts say Boeing and its suppliers in Washington state will need 7,200 new aerospace workers in the next five years to replace retiring workers.

AJAC’s goal is to train entry-level apprentices so that they’ll have the skills to replace those shop-floor experts and leaders when they retire from their jobs at aerospace companies that supply Boeing, Cote said.

“If our state is going to remain the world leader for aerospace manufacturing, then we have got to prepare a new generation of highly skilled workers,” he said. “These youth apprenticeship will help us achieve that, while at the same time, we’re helping young people prepare for careers in jobs that pay family wages with good benefits. It’s good for our industry, and great for these young individuals.”

Studies show that apprentices, on average, earn $300,000 more over their lifetimes than someone who does not get the advanced skills training. Apprentices also complete their training without the student loan debts that burden so many four-year college graduates.

For more information about AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship program, go online at www.ajactraining.org.

Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 31,000 working men and women at 53 employers across Washington and California.

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