It’s one of 11 community and technical colleges that is part of the Aerospace Consortium for Employment (ACE), a group formed to meet urgent workforce needs with short-term training programs in the areas of precision machining, machine maintenance, fiber optics and quality assurance/inspection.The consortium worked with The Boeing Company to identify areas of immediate need in the aerospace industry and identified two to six month training program opportunities to meet those needs.
“We all got together and applied for this GIA grant,” explains Bob Monroig, interim dean of industrial technology at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. “The thinking was that we could each benefit by collaborating instead of competing against one another for the money. Getting a smaller piece of the pie is better than not getting any of it at all.” He adds, “With state funding for education way down and most likely not returning to previous levels in the foreseeable future, it’s incumbent on colleges to look for other avenues of support. I believe this collaborative mode is the wave of the future.”
According to Monroig, the grant process was short and intense due to a quick deadline for applications.
Each school looked at how they could use the money in the most effective way to develop programs that retrain or enhance skilled aerospace workers in the designated areas. Lake Washington, which was awarded $172, 431, plans to utilize the funds to develop curriculum, hire new faculty and purchase equipment. The college currently offers programs in precision machinery, welding, electronics and building plant and maintenance.
Beginning winter quarter, it will add two new certificated programs specifically focused on the aerospace industry: computer numeric control and machine operator. “These programs will take two quarters to complete,” explains Monroig. “Their content will be directed towards meeting the skillset necessary for the aerospace industry. Students, depending on which program they complete, will be able to get a job operating CNC machinery or doing routine maintenance and repair of the equipment.”
Monroig notes that the current and future growth of the aerospace industry in the state bodes well for program graduates. He says that over the next twenty years, the industry will need about half a million or more employees.
Overall, the college has an employment placement success rate that averages between 83 and 86 percent. Monroig expects that the new programs, on their own, will produce a rate somewhere between 80 and 90 percent. He adds, “Although Boeing is the first company that comes to mind when people think of aerospace in Washington State, the reality is that there are hundreds of subcontractors and vendors in this industry that need and will need workers.” Monroig comments that the governor’s intent with this grant is to “overcome inertia” and get things moving now. The hope is that the programs created will become self-sustaining over time. He says, “Whether this is through additional state or federal funding or from the aerospace industry itself via a tuition reimbursement situation for example, the goal is for the programs to be able to stand on their own.”
Joining Lake Washington Institute of Technology in the GIA grant award are: Bates Technical College, Bellingham Technical College, Columbia Basin College, Everett Community College, Green River Community College, Olympic College, Shoreline Community College, South Puget Sound Community College and Yakima Valley Community College.