Washington state’s aerospace industry faces a shortage of skilled workers due to increased orders, pending retirement, and technological advancements that outpace workers’ skills.
The aerospace industry represents a powerful economic force both throughout Washington state and nationally. According to the November 2020 Aerospace Pipeline Report published by Washington's Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board.
Washington continued to have the highest relative concentration of aerospace employment and earnings in the US, nearly 9 times the overall national level.
Average annual earnings for those with jobs in core aerospace firms rose by 20 percent over the latter 5 years of the last decade, reaching $119,633. This was more than twice Washington's average wage of $55,020.
Washington's investments in the aerospace workforce payoff (details reported here):
- The state's return on investment in aerospace training programs was $15 for every dollar invested.
- Workers who participate in aerospace training programs experience an annual net benefit of $22,200.
While modest net increases in aerospace employment are in the forecast, new jobs necessitate higher levels of aerospace education.
Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing Pipeline Advisory Committee
In 2012, Gov. Chris Gregoire established the Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline Advisory Committee to study the skills gap in aerospace workers production. As part of its Pipeline Committee work, SBCTC and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board surveyed employers annually in order to make strategic investments to close the gap (see 2012 through 2015 annual reports for survey results). These two organizations continue to collaborate in producing a report on the demand and supply of aerospace and advanced manufacturing workforce, including the most recent findings published in the 2020 report linked below.
- 2020 Aerospace Pipeline Report
- 2015 Annual Aerospace Report
- 2014 Annual Aerospace Report
- 2013 Annual Aerospace Report
- 2012 Annual Aerospace Report
A Call to Action
In response to the Governor’s and industry calls for increased attention and effort to the aerospace skills gap, community and technical colleges have ramped up training to narrow the skills gap and move well-trained workers into well-paying jobs. The following groups work together to answer the call to bridge the skills gap:
Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC)
The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) was born out of this initiative to manage and facilitate the development and growth of registered aerospace and advanced manufacturing apprenticeship programs in Washington state. AJAC designs, develops, and implements these apprenticeship programs for multiple aerospace and manufacturing occupations. The AJAC committee is comprised of industry employers, employees, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and has equal representation from the different segments of the aerospace industry.
Aerospace Center of Excellence
Colleges share cutting-edge curricula designed jointly with aerospace leaders and industry subject-matter experts. Leading the way is the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing at Everett Community College. The center is a one-stop hub for the industry and experts to design curricula that is utilized system wide.
Washington Aerospace Training Center (WATR)
Located at Paine Field, the WATR training center offers short-term certificates for aircraft-assembly, maintenance, and inspections job in the large aerospace manufacturing plants and related businesses of the Puget Sound corridor.
Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center (INATC) at Spokane Community College
The Inland Northwest Aerospace Technology Center provides training needed by aerospace companies that supply tools and parts for aircraft. Courses include CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) and design technology, CNC machinist, computer software engineering, electronic, hydraulic and pneumatic automation, and welding.
Last Modified: 1/30/24, 3:55 PM