So where will these apprenticeships come from? In this region, where Boeing is still king, aviation tech may lead the way.
For the past several years, the word “apprentice” has conjured an image of either a young blacksmith in colonial days or a shouting match with a strangely coiffed, blowhard tycoon on TV. But in these days of high demand for specialized training, the concept of apprenticeships may be escaping the clutches of Donald Trump and coming back into vogue as a way to produce and retain skilled workers.
At the moment, there are about 8,600 registered apprentices in Washington state, most of whom are in the traditional building and construction sector, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries (DLI). Apprenticeships in the high-tech arena are rare; however, this may change in the near future. With so many tech firms in the region — such as Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and the various gaming companies — looking for workers with specific skill sets, offering apprenticeships is becoming an attractive option.
According to a January report from the state’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB), apprenticeships put job seekers on the fast track to higher salaries. Once they completed their apprenticeships, which usually involve about 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of hands-on work, the apprentices in the study earned an average of $63,000 per year, which is about $19,000 per year higher than non-apprentice workers in a control group. Those who completed an apprenticeship also had an 84 percent employment rate, 14 percentage points higher than community college grads in comparable fields.
These programs also appear to be good bargains for the state as well. The WTECB study found that for every tax dollar invested in apprenticeships, each of the employees created by these programs pumped an average of $91 back to the state in the form of taxes and avoided unemployment benefits over their lifetimes. Among those studying for the same kinds of jobs in the community- or technical-college system, the return is $13 for every dollar invested.
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So where will these apprenticeships come from? In this region, where Boeing is still king, aviation tech may lead the way. Air Washington — a consortium of 11 community and technical colleges, plus one apprenticeship-training program, across the state — currently has a three-year goal of preparing 2,615 individuals to enter Washington’s aerospace workforce. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Air Washington project has a $20 million grant to expand and improve the state’s ability to deliver training programs that can be completed in two years or less.
Recent events also may drive up apprenticeship demand. The news in January that Boeing’s 777X jumbo liner will be assembled in Everett may revive a plan to build the proposed Central Sound Aerospace Training Center near the Renton Airport. The facility, which has already secured $12 million from the state, is expected to be 20,000 to 30,000 square feet in size and would train workers in this region to help build the 777X and other Boeing projects.
Those interested in pursuing apprenticeships can find a wealth of information at the state DLI’s apprenticeship page, which lists what you need to do to become an apprentice. Also, the DLI’s Current Apprenticeship Openings page lets candidates search available programs as they become available.