RENTON, Wash. -- Thomas Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, met with Boeing executives, Washington community college leaders and three graduates of community college training programs now working at Boeing.

In 2011, the Labor Department issued a four year $20-million grant to a consortium of colleges led by Spokane Community College, and included Edmonds Community College/Washington Training and Research Center, Big Bend, Skagit Valley, Clover park, South Seattle and others. The Labor Department said the program was designed to meet Washington state's growing workforce demands, as identified by employer partners in the aerospace industry sectors of advanced manufacturing/machining, aircraft assembly, aircraft maintenance, composite and electronics.

Washington is in many respects a model for the nation, said Perez, standing on the mezzanine overlooking Boeing's 737 assembly line known as line two.

Perez said with President Obama's budget about to come out, he couldn't yet say if Washington will receive more grant money, but his message was clear: more training is needed to meet the demands of a re-emerging U.S. manufacturing sector across the nation.

Boeing is one of the most visible examples of that manufacturing resurgence, as it cranks out record numbers of jets, especially in Renton where they re building at a rate of 42 jets per month.

Perez says as a state labor secretary for Maryland, he visited Washington several years ago to get ideas. In some states, Perez said little money is spent. Washington has aerospace programs at 24 of its 34 community colleges on both sides of the Cascade Mountains.

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