WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee founded by Machinists Union District Lodge 751 has been honored as a trailblazer in workforce training by the U.S. Department of Labor.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis honored AJAC in August, naming the committee a 21st Century Registered Apprenticeship Trailblazer and Innovator.
AJAC was one of four Washington state apprenticeship programs to be honored, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) spoke at the awards ceremony.
The awards were presented as part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the passage of the National Apprenticeship Act, which created the modern apprenticeship system in the United States.
AJAC and the other apprenticeship programs honored have “shown us how the combination of on-the-job learning and classroom instruction is a powerful tool for workers to acquire new skills,” Solis said.
“Apprenticeships have been around since colonial times,” the Secretary said. “Now we’re looking to expand apprenticeships like never before.”
New federal wage data shows that people who complete apprenticeship training will, on average, earn at least $250,000 more over the course of their careers than workers who don’t get the training.
AJAC was founded in 2008 with a $3 million state grant to the Machinists Union. District 751 officers sit on its board of directors today, and AJAC staffers are members of Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-F.
This fall, more than 125 apprentices will train at aerospace companies statewide, in partnership with local community colleges. More will train at the Manufacturing Academy, a 10-week program that teaches basic workforce skills to candidates for aerospace manufacturing jobs.
Apprentices who enter the program have the option of either a two-year program leading to a CNC operator’s certificate, or a four-year program to become a journeyman machinist. Graduates have the option of earning a two-year college degree in the process.
“We’re taking entry-level workers and providing them with the training and skills they need to become journeyman-level, expert aerospace workers,” said Jesse Cote, the District 751 staffer who is chairman of AJAC’s board of directors.
“As a result, everybody wins,” Cote continued. “The apprentice wins, because he or she will gain more skills, get better jobs and earn more money. And their companies win too, because they’ll have more high-skill workers, which means they can win bigger contracts and earn bigger profits.”
For Washington’s aerospace industry as a whole, having more highly skilled workers is a competitive advantage, Cote added.
“Having a strong group of aerospace suppliers here in Washington provides more incentive for Boeing to stay here, and the more high-skill, high-pay manufacturing jobs we have in this state, the better it is for everyone,” he said. “It’s all goodness, and it all starts with our apprenticeship training program.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents some 32,000 working men and women at 48 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2011, District 751 members ratified a four-year contract extension with Boeing that ensured the 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.