Snohomish County is Washington State’s number one county for aerospace and advanced manufacturing supporting an estimated 110,000 direct jobs over 960 companies. To further support the region’s need for highly-skilled workers, AJAC expanded the Manufacturing Academy (MA) in January to Monroe, Washington offering unemployed individuals the skills, knowledge and abilities for manufacturing positions. WorkSource Monroe (located in Snohomish County) was selected as the third location for the Manufacturing Academy, a 400-hour, 10-week pre-apprenticeship program, due to the robust and dynamic cluster of aerospace and advanced manufacturing companies in the area. The Manufacturing Academy also runs in Pierce King and Skagit Counties with plans to expand across the state as the demand for skilled workers continues to rise.

After the success of the first MA class in Monroe this past winter, the second class graduated in early July with eight well-rounded and job-ready individuals looking to take their certifications and hands-on learning to the next level. Jason Craig, a 33-year-old from Lynnwood, Washington enrolled in the Manufacturing Academy not knowing how much he would learn about manufacturing, “I used to think manufacturing was about people who worked in a factory or assembly, but there is so much more to it…Who would have thought years ago that we could type things into a computer and it will print out a 3D model?” Jason said, “Everything from quality assurance to precision measurement, it really opened my eyes to how little I knew about manufacturing.”

Throughout the 10-week program, students tour several local-area manufacturing companies and receive hours of hands-on classroom training, resulting in valuable certifications recognized and used throughout numerous industries. Michael Stonecastle, a 27-year-old from Arlington, Washington valued the practical learning in addition to the certifications he earned, “I never had the OSHA-30 certification, nor the LEAN yellow belt, CPR, First Aid or Forklift”, he said. “This gave me a lot of new things to say [to employers].”

Every Manufacturing Academy cohort is designed to create one-on-one interactions between the instructors and students, allowing for higher performance and increased group learning. Math continues to play a key role in manufacturing and with an intimate learning environment, students are able to grasp concepts they couldn’t absorb in high school. “…Because of the diverse culture we are able to communicate with each other and I was able to grasp [math] better this time around”, Jason Craig added. “These instructors are willing to sit down with you on their lunch break, after class, or work with you in the off time to give you that knowledge. They have such a drive for it, it’s awesome! You get to have your voice heard and questions answered. The whole atmosphere is more beneficial because everyone gets the attention they deserve.”

As the Monroe Manufacturing Academy graduates were surrounded by family and friends, they received their certificates of completion, signaling a new chapter in their lives as ready-to-work individuals in manufacturing. Whether it was metallurgy or algebra, resume building or interview skills, all eight graduates are now better prepared to enter the workforce with the confidence to begin a new career in manufacturing.

Rick Pattison (MA Instructor, left), Michael Stonecastle (MA Gradate, center) and Justin Sherman (AJAC Instructor, right)