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Arlington schools, AJAC tout STEM initiatives
ARLINGTON — School was out for students, but class was in session for the community at Arlington High School on Friday, March 22, as the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee covered how their programs dovetail with the Arlington School District’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiatives.
ASD Superintendent Dr. Kristine McDuffy described the district as “excited to be partnering” with not only AJAC, but also the Workforce Development Council and Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, Everett Community College, the city of Arlington and local businesses “to ensure our students are aware of the multitude of opportunities in high demand STEM fields, and that they’ll have access to high-quality relevant instruction, and clear career and college pathways. This unique and powerful partnership will help build bridges for our students and a strong, competitive workforce.”
AJAC Executive Director Laura Hopkins guided visitors to the AHS campus on a tour through the new metal shop housed in back of the building, and explained how AJAC launched its machining apprenticeship program in Arlington in January of this year, with an eye toward introducing its precision metal fabrication program this summer.
“AJAC is excited to share with employers and public officials the steps we’ve taken to bring apprenticeship training to the Arlington area, and the opportunities employers now have to train their workforce,” Hopkins said. “Our partnership with the city and school district of Arlington allows us to bridge the gap between K-12 education and employment in the aerospace and manufacturing trades, and also gives us the opportunity to create the next generation of highly skilled workers.”
Part of how AJAC accomplishes this aim, according to Hopkins, is by making local employers partners in the program, by demonstrating how their donations in support of hands-on state-of-the-art machines serves their own interests by furnishing them with employable and trainable high school graduates.
“It’s easy to recruit young people into these fields when they can actually see how these things are made,” Hopkins said. “You’re changing this country from the bottom up every time you teach them.”
Sid Logan, executive director of operations and facilities for the Arlington School District, acknowledged that what should have been a relatively brisk permitting process for the newer equipment has been delayed slightly due to it running off different voltage than the older machines, while Hopkins noted that AJAC is still in talks with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to work out how high school students might be able to get credits for apprenticeship programs. However, she touted apprenticeship programs as not only building skills among employees, but also breeding loyalty to their employers.
“With the increase in Arlington’s aerospace and advance manufacturing sector, it’s imperative that we address the issues of a qualified work force to fill these increasing job opportunities,” said Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert, who also attended the March 22 open house. “Arlington’s public schools are addressing the demand for a higher STEM aptitude for students, and creating a pathway for them to succeed in the technical environment of the 21st century economy. A well-trained workforce is necessary to ensure the Arlington community remains globally competitive in this new economy.”