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Cantwell Honors Machinists Union Member as 'Woman of Valor'

A Machinists Union member who heads a statewide aerospace apprenticeship program has been honored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

SEATTLE — Laura Hopkins, the executive director of the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, was one of eight women honored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell at her annual “Women of Valor” luncheon Feb. 22.

Hopkins was honored for her work with AJAC, which is creating new opportunities for Washington state residents in one of the state’s fastest-growing industries – aerospace.

AJAC is strongly supported by Machinists Union District Lodge 751 and Hopkins herself is a member of Local Lodge 751-F.

“We’re honoring women who have helped create a lot of jobs in Washington state,” said Cantwell.

“We need to find 20,000 new aerospace workers in Washington over the next 10 years,” the senator continued. “Laura and her team’s job is to find, recruit and train the next generation of elite aerospace workers, so we can keep aerospace manufacturing growing in the U.S.”

Specifically, Cantwell praised Hopkins for AJAC’s programs that make it easy for veterans to access AJAC training and that help them use their G.I. Bill benefits to pay for career education.

Cantwell also noted that Hopkins and AJAC played a leading role in the consortium that won a $20 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to pay for expanded aerospace worker training across Washington.

“Laura has done an outstanding job opening up opportunities for young women and men in our state who want lifelong careers in aerospace,” said Jesse Cote, a District 751 staff member who is on the board of directors for AJAC. “She deserves the recognition.”

AJAC’s goal is to train the “next generation of master mechanics and master machinists,” Hopkins said during a presentation at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance’s annual conference. “Not only to know how to push a button, but why there’re pushing that button.”

To do that, AJAC is helping companies match promising young candidates with the most-experienced and skilled workers at more than 90 aerospace suppliers across the state. That’s critical, as again Baby Boomers prepare to retire, leaving a gap in manufacturing knowledge.

“We’ll help you capture the skills of your go-to people,” Hopkins said. “Everybody has those four or five people who they’re just terrified will walk out the door.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 31,000 men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In December, District 751 members ratified a four-year contract extension with Boeing that ensured the 737 MAX will be build in Puget Sound.

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