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New Green River Classes Give Students an Edge in Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing

Programs in Principles of Precision Machining, Machine Maintenance and Quality Assurance will begin March 19 at Green River Community College as part of a larger effort to keep manufacturing jobs in Washington state.

Green River Community College is getting ready to offer for the first time a condensed curriculum designed to help students achieve short-term training for high-demand jobs in the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industry.

Under this heading, according to Bob Embrey, director of corporate and continuing education at the college, are three programs that students will take: Principles of Precision Machining, Machine Maintenance and Quality Assurance.

"The curriculum aligns directly with Boeing KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities) in several job codes," Embrey said. "They [Boeing] are very interested in the graduates."

The Boeing Co. has been involved for the past 18 months in helping to develop the curriculum, he said. "But I need to mention that this isn't just about Boeing. It's about the entire aerospace and advanced manufacturing supply chain. In Washington, there's 650 to 800 companies in the aerospace supply chain. In King County alone there are over 400. This program supports all those companies."

This curriculum is made possible as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire's Investment in Aerospace grant to a consortium of community colleges, Embrey said. Last May, Gregoire announced $3 million in Workforce Investment Act funds to support aerospace training programs. 

"The grant itself was one of several initiatives by the governor's office to entice Boeing to keep its production here and to continue to build a 21st century work force to support the aerospace and advanced manufacturing environment here in the state and keep us at the forefront of global competitiveness," Embrey said.

Green River received $165,000 to fund the program with $100,000 of that going to purchase new equipment for the classes, Embrey said.

Does this mean there is a guaranteed job out there for all graduates of this program? "There's never any guarantee with an employer that there's going to be hiring. Hiring is a combination of education, experience and individual soft skills and personality," Embrey said. "But people coming through the program will have a definite advantage over someone who has not."

There has been much attention focused on manufacturing in the U.S. at both the regional and national level and it appears as if jobs could be headed to the Pacific Northwest.

Jim McNerney, CEO of The Boeing Co., said last week, at an event organized by GE to promote U.S. competitiveness that American companies were too quick to move production out of the country in the past and "now see a competitive advantage in building up their footprints back home." (Read this Reuters report)

Also last week, King County Aerospace Alliance shared its unified actions to support a “faster, stronger, better” infrastructure for the aerospace industry.

Even President Barack Obama, on his visit to The Boeing Co. plant in Everett last week called for an increase in manufacturing (Read the story).

So while this program that is about 400 hours in length and covered over two quarters is this year funded by the grant, "it will continue," Embrey said. "It will be an integral part of our program for years to come as long as industries continue to hire. And if there is more demand for additional programs, the college will certainly be responsive. This is very industry-driven and it's going to fill a gap that currently exists out there."

See this Washington Post story last week about U.S. manufacturing seeing a shortage of skilled factory workers

The Details

Green River's Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing program is set to begin on March 19. Leading up to that point, there will be information sessions every Wednesday at 1 p.m. on the Auburn campus at the TIA building for those interested in learning more.

Tuition will be about $4,200 plus the cost of books, Embrey said. The cost is comparable to other trade programs that run each quarter.

"Seats are starting to fill, but there's still room," he said.

Visit www.greenriver.edu/aerospace for more information.

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