Cantwell: New Skills Training Programs Will Support Spokane Aviation Jobs

Program Led by Spokane Community College Will Provide Capacity to Train More Than 2,000 Workers Statewide

SPOKANE, WA – On Sunday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) toured a rapidly growing Spokane aerospace company to highlight the jobs impact of a new aerospace training grant for programs at Spokane Community College (SCC) and other skills programs around the state.

Cantwell joined Air Washington and Spokane Community College to detail new training programs offered under the federal grant, which will help support aerospace jobs. The $20 million Department of Labor grant awarded to Air Washington will support the training of more than 2,600 workers statewide with the skills needed by Washington state’s 650 aerospace employers. Air Washington is a consortium – led by Spokane Community College – of 14 of Washington’s community and technical colleges across Washington and several aerospace training organizations.

The growing aviation industry in Eastern Washington supports more than 8,000 jobs, including at more than 80 employers. Cantwell tour Associated Painters on Sunday to highlight the impact of a new grant Cantwell backed that is enabling to train more workers to meet the needs of the Inland Northwest’s growing aerospace industry. Associated Painters is among a growing pool of aerospace employers in Eastern Washington that rely on skilled workers with specialized Federal Aviation Administration certifications offered by Spokane Community College and other education institutions.

“This critical investment will help keep Washington state at the forefront of the 21st century commercial aviation industry,” said Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. “These job training programs are skilling Washingtonians to meet the needs of our state’s hundreds of aerospace businesses. Here in the Inland Northwest, these skill training programs will Washingtonians get jobs in the growing aerospace field.  I was proud to back this investment, which will help close the aviation skills gap and put Washingtonians back to work.”

Air Washington is a consortium – led by Spokane Community College – of 14 community and technical colleges and several aerospace training organizations across Washington. The consortium was created to address and meet the needs of the state’s growing aerospace workforce in advanced manufacturing/machining, aircraft assembly, aircraft maintenance, composites, and electronics. Air Washington seeks to recruit and train more women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups for aerospace jobs.

In 20 years, the global aerospace industry will be worth an estimated $3.6 trillion and Boeing has estimated that the world will need an average of 32,500 mechanics a year until 2030. The aviation industry in Washington state currently employs 270,000 people and represents 7.7 percent of all state employees along with 7.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product. As a percentage of its total workforce, Washington ranks second after Nevada in aviation-related jobs in the lower 48.

Cantwell has long fought to make Washington state a 21st century hub for the commercial aviation industry. In February 2011, Cantwell played a key role in shepherding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill through the Senate, which invests in 21st century technology for air travel, creating high-tech aviation jobs and improving efficiency for travel and trade. The FAA reauthorization bill would convert the nation’s air traffic control system from the outdated, less efficient ground-based system to a more efficient satellite-based system. The GPS system, called NextGen, will allow aircraft to move more precisely into and out of airports, improving air safety and reducing flight delays that cost the nation’s economy billions of dollars each year.

In 2003, the Senate passed Cantwell’s amendment to the ‘Vision 100’ FAA reauthorization bill creating the FAA’s first advanced aviation materials research center. She successfully fought to have the new center based at the University of Washington. The Center for Excellence for Advanced Materials for Transportation Aviation Structures (AMTAS) leads the industry’s research of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in future aircraft. AMTAS has changed the game for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. The Center’s students and scientists conducted research that proved to the FAA that pioneering composite materials in aircrafts could work. Boeing incorporated ATMAS’ findings into many of the new 787s’ systems. 

In 2001, Cantwell also helped land initial funding to help grow a training program in advanced aviation materials started in the late 90s at Edmonds Community College. Since then, several other training programs at the state level have spun off from these initial programs and are currently helping to produce the skilled aviation workforce of the future.