A record number of Washington aerospace suppliers are heading to the Paris Air Show, and Edmonds Community College is joining them to showcase their training center.
Sixty-three Washington aerospace suppliers are planning to attend the show, which starts Sunday.
Edmonds operates the Washington Aerospace Training & Research Center at Everett’s Paine Field. Established under the administration of Governor Christine Gregoire in 2009, the WATR Center is one of two centers designed to supply the state’s growing aerospace industry with trained workers.
The program’s operation is paid for through tuition and money from companies that hire graduates, and that same money is finding two representatives from Edmonds Community College.
“The air show for us is really about helping Washington state its case to the world about what we offer here,” said Terry Cox, Edmonds Community College vice president for workforce development and training. “WATR Center is part of that; training is part of that."
When the WATR Center started, most of its graduates went to work for Boeing, according to Center Executive Director Larry Cluphf. More recently, about half of the graduates go to the state’s supplier base, companies that make parts for airplanes, spacecraft, and tools and provide other products and services to Boeing and even Airbus.
The state’s economy is still very much dependent on aerospace, though Boeing is now only one of more than 1,300 companies involved in the aerospace business. Some foreign companies have even set up shop in Western Washington to provide robots and other equipment for Boeing’s new 777X aircraft, which should be carrying passengers by 2020.
Cox says the WATR Center can set up specific training programs for companies that need that service. By attending the Paris Air Show, the college says it can both make connections and be sure that everyone knows they can provide the work force to back up deals that suppliers begin developing at the show.
The WATR Center provides certificates in areas including aerospace manufacturing, electrical assembly, manufacturing quality assurance, aerospace tooling, and aerospace composites.
The center is overseen by Edmonds Community College and the Aerospace Futures Alliance, which represents 1,450 aerospace companies in Washington state.