Bremerton, Wash.- The Open Professionals Education Network (OPEN) recently featured the Air Washington project as an exemplary workforce training program supported by the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Olympic College is a member of the statewide consortium, a partnership comprised of eleven community and technical colleges, seven Workforce development Councils, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing, and the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee that participated in the $20 million Air Washington project to expand aerospace training opportunities within the state of Washington.
TAACCCT funding was designed to support partnerships between community colleges and employers to build training programs that meet the needs of growing industries and construct career pathways for unemployed, underemployed and dislocated workers. Projects were selected based on the DOL priorities of ability to accelerate progress of students, provide career pathway guidance, student support and retention, and online learning.
For OC, Air Washington funding helped transform the Electronics, Manufacturing-Precision Machining, and Composites Manufacturing Technology programs. Aside from providing some new equipment and machinery for OC, the grant paid for curriculum enhancement, faculty, and needed building renovations. A unique feature of this funding also allowed for extensive student support services related to individualized advising and assessment, assistance with program retention and beyond, when students leave OC and set out on their own to find employment. Both before and after program completion, students are immersed in messaging related to the need to actively engage in job search activities related to improving their employment status.
Since the grant award, the consortium has helped employers find, educate and train the workers needed to meet global demand for the world’s most sophisticated, modern airplanes and related avionics tools, technologies, equipment and services. The collaborative effort is critically important to the economy of Washington state now and into the future, say its dozens of backers and participants, which include not only community colleges, but also area manufacturers, unions and the local workforce training system.
John T. Powers, Jr., Executive Director, of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance counts itself fortunate to include Olympic College and Air WA as economic development partners. Powers stated, “The composites program as part of OC’s Air WA offerings was instrumental in attracting an aerospace component manufacturer from California to Kitsap County. The owners were impressed with the instructor, curriculum and students.”
Partnership with industry has been key to the success of this grant. Employers keep OC informed on what is needed in the local workforce via advisory committees and ideally engage with students via internships, work experiences, field trips, or guest lecturing. By engaging with students, employers have an edge on hiring the best and brightest graduates. The benefits to students are also increased with real work knowledge, and an increased awareness of job prospects before program completion.
Prospective students can attend regular information sessions. These can be found at the Air Washington website at http://www.olympic.edu/AirWA/.
About Olympic College:
Olympic College is a public two-year community college that educates more than 13,000 students a year. Founded in 1946, the college has three campuses in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Shelton and serves a population of 280,000 residents living in Kitsap, Mason and surrounding counties.