Patty in the News

Snohomish County’s Aerospace Training Institute might just be the start of something bigger.

The newly unveiled plan to partner community colleges and aerospace companies was lauded as exemplary Wednesday when Sen. Patty Murray laid out a plan to create a new federal board to bolster workforce development programs for teens.

If the “Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers” bill is successful, the federal grant program would distribute $912 million in its first year, Murray said Wednesday. States and regional governments could apply for grants based on their development need, with the intent of creating innovative training programs.

“Our goal is to kick-start the economy by using this federal funding as seed money throughout the nation,” Murray said.

No immediate uses for the so-far unappropriated millions have been identified, and that wouldn’t be determined until applications were submitted to the grant program, called the National Academic and Career Innovation Center.

But Murray talked about the possibility of aerospace training programs in Snohomish County and agricultural development in Yakima and Wenatchee.

“I believe that in this very tough economic climate, there are a lot of opportunities,” she said. “We have great opportunities for young people today.”

The grants would be competitive, and governments would have to “show their work” with local employers and educational institutions, Murray said. Regular reports would be made to Congress to justify how grant money was spent.

During a call with reporters Wednesday, state officials made an example of plans for the aerospace institute, so far aided by a two-year lease from Snohomish County and a partnership with community colleges and an aerospace group.

Training hasn’t kept pace with rapid technological growth in the work force, said Eleni Papadakis, executive director of the state State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.

At last count, about 65 percent of the jobs tracked by the state’s labor office didn’t exist 30 years ago.

“We know business is in the throes of transformation,” Papadakis said.

In theory, grants would help close the gap between high-skill jobs and low-skill workers by educating high school students.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn cast his vote for the proposed grant program Wednesday, saying it “adds tremendous value to students” by paving a way to family-wage careers.

“I appreciate the scope of the bill,” Dorn said. “Its value to business and labor comes from getting students engaged early in a trade or industry.”

Murray is sponsoring the legislation with Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass. Read the full text of the bill at

– Everett Herald