Cantwell pushes for more aerospace workers in visit to Kitsap
Kitsap Sun - Rachel Pritchett
BREMERTON —Washington state must grow its aerospace workforce by 20,000 people in a decade if it has a prayer of staying competitive.
That was the sobering message U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., delivered to educators and others during a local stop Friday. The educators reminded her that funding for more college instruction in aerospace could solve the shortfall.
Now, they say, student demand for such classes far surpasses capacity.
Meeting at Olympic College, Cantwell agreed.
"This is about how the United States retains one of the biggest workforce sectors that it has," she said.
Cantwell is chairwoman of the Senate Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Committee, and came to Bremerton to see progress on $2.2 million she secured last fall for OC to boost aerospace training.
There's been some.
The funds already are being used to provide aerospace training for 374 students, according to OC President David Mitchell, in three areas — composites manufacturing; manufacturing technology and precision machining; and electronics.
Instruction ranges from two quarters to two years, and demand for classes is very high, with the exception of a new composites court of study, which only has nine students now.
In addition, OC in May will graduate its first class of students earning a four-year mechanical-engineering degree from Washington State University at Olympic College.
Higher education was spared further cuts by the now-done Legislature, and earlier state funding has allowed WSU to expand its mechanical-engineering program, according to Robert Olsen, a WSU dean of engineering. This coming fall, WSU will start a four-year, mechanical-engineering degree program at Everett Community College based on a model started two years ago at OC.
Educators agreed "composites" are the future. Geoff Wood, president of Profile Composites, earlier said he had seven people who'd earned the new composites-manufacturing certificate assembling lightweight medical items like crutches. Wood, who also has operations in Canada, said he also is involved in looking at using composites for unmanned aerial vehicles for nonmilitary uses like search and rescue and mining surveillance.
Cantwell also met with local political and business leaders in the Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance, a new group trying to attract Boeing 737 MAX suppliers to Kitsap.
They put a big push on her to send some supplier business their way.
"It's not just Renton and Everett," state Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, told Cantwell.
Cantwell toured the Safe Boats International manufacturing facility Friday. Safe Boats makes fast security boats.
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