Despite the nation’s budget problems, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray believes funding must be continued to train people for manufacturing jobs in the categories and communities where they're needed.
The Washington Democrat spoke Wednesday at Machinists Inc., a South Seattle machining company that is starting a 17-person apprentice program, with state and federal help, to train people in machinist skills the company needs to expand.
“One of the solutions we need, is to make sure people unemployed are getting the right kind of training for jobs that are growing,” Murray said.
During a tour of the some of the company’s 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space, company President Hugh LaBossier said he’s currently constrained from growth by lack of specific machining skills.
The company makes a range of precision milled metal products, from tooling for Boeing, to sections of landing gear for Airbus A380s, to large parts for people-lifting machines made by Terex . About 30 percent of the company’s work goes to Boeing, and it employs 150 people, LaBossier said.
The 17 apprentices are part of the accelerated growth of an apprentice program intended to fill local manufacturers' needs, said Laura Hopkins, executive director of the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, known in the industry as AJAC.
Hopkins said that while AJAC had originally planned to launch two apprentice programs this fall, it’s now planning to launch four — two in King County, one in the Tri-Cities area and a fourth in Snohomish County.
Murray said one of her goals is to continue to find funding to support such training programs. She said she often hears from young people that the general schooling they’ve received hasn’t prepared them for 21st-century jobs.
“We have to do a better job as a nation in bridging that skills gap,” she said. “If we want America to win in the future, we will need those workers.”
She pointed to the 17 apprentices behind her as examples of what this specific training can look like.
“We need to make sure our people here have a solid pathway to good jobs and 21st-century careers,” she said.
Murray is one of 12 members of the new congressional budget balancing committee. Asked about the federal budget-balancing process, Murray made a connection with spending money appropriately on training.
“One of responsibilities of our committee and Congress to the country, is to make sure we’re not just looking at short-term solutions. We have to decide what kind of country we want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now,” she said. "Certainly programs like partnerships with business on work force development and education are a critical component of where we want to be 20 years from now.”
She declined to take any specific positions on what local funding she would defend as a committee member, saying her job now is to stay open.
“I think we are all going into this with eyes wide open, that the challenge we have is incredibly important, to show the country we can step up to this responsibility in a nonpartisan way,” she said of the committee.
‘We also understand that we’re being asked, at a very important time in history, to not draw a line in the sand, to have people put us in boxes of where we’ve coming from, but to really look at this from a very smart point of view.”
- Puget Sound Business Journal